Feature: The Music ‘Business’: The Dirty ‘M’ Word.



The Music ‘Business’:


The Dirty ‘M’ Word.


As I look ahead to my (and many other people’s) future, it can be exciting to imagine. Ambitions and high-minded plans inspire the mind, compel the imagination; yet there can be one major stumbling block: money.


WHEN you get to my stage in life, something odd begins to happen…

When I say ‘stage’, I don’t mean age- more a period of restlessness. The rest of this year is going to see (I hope) a lot of transition and fulfilment. The singer/songwriter area of my brain is spinning lyrics, compositions and designs- it is quite exciting. Once an entire album’s worth of material starts to cement itself- and the seeds are sown- it is only natural to think ahead. Before you know it, you (and I have) find yourself imagining the album cover; each song in its entirety- each and every component in full. One of the greatest things about music (from the perspective of an artist) is that it is easy to record and publish music. In terms of technology and accessibility, you no longer need to go into a studio, spend hundreds of pounds and labour hard to get your music recorded. Many ‘D.I.Y. artists’ or bedroom acts can sit in the comfort of their own homes; bring their music to life- and stream it straight to the general public. Most new acts start off by recording the odd song; perhaps an E.P. will (eventually) arrive: the embryonic steps are fairly modest. In time L.P.s and larger projects are realised, but I have witnessed many fresh acts lay down their tracks; put their intentions out there and feed them to the public. For most of us listening, there is no consideration given to the mechanics behind making the music- what is costs to make it happen. Even those whom make their music outside of a studio, the cost associated with doing so can be quite galling. It is only natural, yet when I look at studio rates, my eyes can water. Unless you are lucky enough to have a friend whom runs a studio (and thus get ‘mates rates’) or find an economical way of producing music, the final bill can be pretty high. An entire day in the studio (usually 8 hours minimum) can cost anywhere up to £400. Some studios I have seen charge almost double that, and that is just the recording costs itself- before any mastering has been completed. It may sound like an old (well thirty-something) man having a bit of a rant: far from it. Of course studios are businesses and have to charge for their services; it just seems that a lot of musicians are reverting to the confines of their own home, because the cost of professionally recording music is so high. I have friends whom run their own studios, and their costs are modest and affordable, yet they seem to be in a general minority. I am in the process of completing the writing of an album; one of which I have been working on for years now- something I am immensely proud of. When I tabulate all the various expenses and logistical considerations, the bar bill runs into thousands: five figures actually. You may say that if you want to spend less, than record fewer tracks; be less ambitious or convoluted, perhaps. In that sense, there is a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma. Before I investigate the costs of making it in music in general, I shall use myself as a case study.

I will get more into the inequities and vicissitudes of music ambition, yet from my own perspective, I have found the costs are mounting. As it stands (and as I sit) my bank accounts have a few hundred quid in them. I am looking at getting part-time roles at the moment, and writing as much as possible. Having applied to various music sites and publications (with regards to getting jobs here) most- to start with- are going to be unpaid. When I can afford to get my own place and move on in the world, I imagine that I will not have a lot of money left over. Even when I had a full-time role, I found myself with not a lot to show at the end of the month (once rent etc. had been deducted). I guess this is the same with everyone; of course there will be variables and differences. I have a basic 8-track recorded, yet find that the sound quality is pretty poor- not adequate for what I want to do. There are softwares and programmes available to record vocals and music, yet I find that they are pretty basic for what I need. The solution is going to be going into the studio and recording music that way. General rehearsing and band hunting will have a money value attached, although it will not be overly high. If I were to just record one of my most ‘unambitious’ tracks, it will take a full day in the studio- as well as additional mastering and production costs. I would imagine that we would be talking about £600 or so (at the minimum) and that seems quite daunting. You may sit there and think that this is perfectly reasonable: and it is. The issue is, that after all the ‘day-to-day’ costs are expended and you look at what you have left, there is not a huge amount to play with. One song may be an achievable goal (in terms of money), but if you are looking into recording an E.P. or L.P., then you are looking at a somewhat stiffing total. It is imperative and handy having recording software and facilities whereby you can record basic numbers at home. I know many whom started out this way, and they have gained attention and fans from it. Invariably, all music- at some stage- is going to enter the studio, and it makes me wonder: is it putting people off (recording music)? Aside from music-making itself, I am looking at two other ventures: a music bar/cafe as well as a (small) record label). The first business idea stemmed from a real need; a gap in the marketplace, and as much as anything, a neat concept. In London (and various cities) there are plenty of great music venues, bars and locations- we all have our favourites. From what I have seen, there is nothing on offer that provides a bar, cafe and music venue- all in one. I have written a full blog post about this before, but the idea is to have a London-based, two-floor location. Essentially, it would have a lower floor where there is a bar; seating areas and a couple of stages. Patrons would be able to order food (off an extensive menu); order alcohol (cocktails included) and hot drinks, and sit and listen to music. There would digital jukeboxes offering endless amounts of tracks; and put simply, it would be a music venue-cum-cafe. The stages would allow for local and mainstream acts to perform (in the evening), and it would be a (hopeful) major venue. Upstairs, there would be an interactive platform; where walls fo screens and units would be set up. A music website- Pyschoacoustics– would be accessible, and allow anyone to create and make music; listen to any song they want- as well dozens of other features. In addition, there would be a modest-sized recording studio on the floor as well, allowing musicians as well as first-timers to record music- at an affordable fee. It all sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky, I grant you, but it is not me wanting to become Richard Branson here- just fulfil a genuine desire amongst many. Thom Yorke (in Paranoid Android) said that “Ambition makes you look pretty ugly“; well in my case, it makes me look tired. I have been formulating a business plan and ideas for the venue, yet it seems an almost impossible realisation. Setting aside issues such as finding a venue and getting a loan etc. the amount of start-up capital needed is immense. It is going to be the same with any business, but it seems that an idea is not enough: banks and lenders require you to have enough of your own money before they lend. I can guarantee that the business enterprise will be profitable and successful, but the initial stumbling blocks are hard to get over. The other ‘crazy idea’ I had, was to establish a record label. This is born, not out of a need for profit, but to provide a home for some great musicians. I know quite a few different acts and artists whom are unsigned; negated and passed over by labels because their sounds are not what they are looking for- seemingly wandering the road seeking out shelter. It is quite sad, as the artists in question are all hugely talented and impressive. My ickle label- tentatively to be called Famous Atheists Records– would be London-based, yet be free from genre restrictions. The idea would be to provide a parapet for all sorts of artists; from northern Pop and Rock acts, through to U.S.-based Electro.- and all in-between. As far as desire goes, this idea probably takes up more of my imagination than music-making itself. I know of so many acts all worthy of being signed, yet subjugated and rejected because their sound is too unique; ill-fitted to a record label’s rigid mould- it is heartbreaking. BBC 6 Music put out an article online (link below) stating how easy it is to start your own label. Like a business, you just need to have your plan, costs and cash forecast set out; do your market research and get in touch with contacts- simples, right? Well, in the case of some failed record labels, perhaps not. If you are smart enough to do your research, then you can make a go of it, just you always need some cash of your own (like with a business) before going to a bank. As much as anything, setting up a record label relies on getting funds and donations from other businesses and contacts- which can be a headache in itself. It is not just me (as a megalomaniac-music mogul-in waiting) whom has this issue: many of my contemporaries and pals have this conundrum…

Recently, I have reviewed quite a lot of different acts. From Scottish wonders through to English Pop princesses, there has been a great deal to digest. With every new act, there is always a lot of graft and sweat that has gone into their music. When I (recently) reviewed Universal Thee’s Back to Earth album, I know how much effort went into make it. The band members all worked harder than ever; toiling and spending hours on ensuring the finishing product was as good as possible. The money that went into making that L.P. was as a result of endless shifts, overtime and tiring work. Knowing how good the band are- and were before the album- it seems strange that the guys had to work so hard to raise the funds. I am sure that the five-piece did not mind; and that they would do it all over agin, but this struck me: shouldn’t it be easier than this? Other acts, from Issimo, through to Jen Armstrong; to Chess Elena Ramona and Crystal Seagulls, have broken their backs in jobs- to raise the necessary cash. I guess if there is a degree of struggle and overcoming adversity, then the end result can be that much more satisifying- as though you have genuinely earned the right to make music. The life of the unsigned artist is a fraught and unpredictable one, that to my eyes, does not seem to be so hard. When you have a label backing you, and you have management; issues such as finance are (although not non-existent) not a huge problem. It is axiomatic that labels should be seeking the best talent; that incentive to work and produce incredible music arrives when as few burdens as possible are present; money and raising finance is one of the biggest burdens- ergo, dissipating the problem makes sense. I do wonder if the reason bands and new acts favour putting out an E.P. (as opposed to a full album) is not that they want to distill their essence and do not have enough ready material- but because it is not feasible to release an L.P. Digitialisation of the music industry and the augmentation of music-sharing has made it easier (than ever) to get your music heard by as many people as possible; yet I fear that may be an issue: would charging a nominal fee to hear your music help? The music-buying public (not too long ago), has no choice but to buy everything they heard; I just wonder whether sites such as SoundCloud and YouTube act as a double-edged sword? From a personal perspective, I have heard a great amount of music on these sites (often to review) and have always felt regretful that I was unable to buy the sound- or to pay a token sum to hear it. If, say, each person whom listened to a track paid 50p, then you could raise hundreds (or thousands) of pounds- without putting anyone out-of-pocket. Perhaps this raises ethical issues, with many feeling it unfair that they have to pay for something- that they could otherwise have gotten for free. It is always a dangerous quagmire when discussing charging for music. There will be those whom say that music should be free to listen to; that this is the only way the less advantageous can afford it. Those- like me- in the opposing camp, feel that if the music is worth listening to, then it is worthy paying for. I always love hearing great new music in its full glory, but am always left wondering what the human and financial cost of making it (was). From my perspective, I am filled with trepidations and questions. We are in a year (and era) where there is a huge amount of new music out there; where the market is as crowded and bustling as ever- it seems logical that some form of financial backing should be available. Obviously, the musician will have to help to subsidise and support themselves (to a degree), yet some palliative care should be available for all.  I have been investigating a few sites that offer some financial absolution; sources that can offer assistance.  Whilst there is some merit and utility to these sites, there is still a lot to do (in terms of raising money).

What is to be done, I hear you (not) ask? Because music sees so many new acts enter the fold (by the day), then it seems that the issue of money may be an unanswerable quandary. In tandem with the general economy, the more people you have in a country, the more you have to stretch budgets. Unless you have a hugely well-paid job (or wealthy parents) then most of us have to live by the same, modest standards of living. The ambitious are often treated with impunity, and laughed at; spurring them on to silence the sharp-tongued detractors. As I stated early on, it is wholly possible to record music wherever you may be- and whatever your budget is. For those whom require the services of a studio or producer, then the whole business can become quite expensive. I know of many new musicians whom either have to work their feet to the bone (to afford to make music) or hesitate making it all- due to the realities of realising your dreams. For those making an E.P., L.P. or what have you, there are sources such as Kickstater (a site that is a crowd-funding platform). You can get loans and grants if you have a great business plan, but often you need quite a bit of your own capital. Designing a music website requires a lot of money; setting up a record label does- the list goes on. When you disseminate your earnings to various requirements (rent, food, life etc.) then you find that the coffers are quite bare. Ambition, talent and exposure will get the best and brightest what they desire, but you have to be able to walk before you can run. I guess me moaning about this fact will not solve the issue, yet it occurs to me that there may be some solutions. Crowd-sourcing website are a great way to earn money for your projects, and it seems to be a way forward. A lot of artists have found satisfaction through these channels, and we need more websites like this to be established. As much as anything, it seems that a fundamental (yet irritating) component is stopping a lot of new artists in their tracks. It makes me wonder whether something needs to be done; as music is one of the greatest art forms in the world, we should be encouraging it hugely. Unlike acting, music relies on a huge amount of self-funding, and to my mind, there is not enough being done to support musicians- making it more cost-effective to take the first steps. I am hoping to- amongst other plans- get a record label set up and make it a bit easier for some great musicians to make music (cost effectively). It is always a bugger when real life gets in the way of things, and a bigger one when money dictates things. It would be good to hear other people’s thoughts; hear from musicians whom face the hostilities of music-making/money, and get some feedback. As far as I can tell, a lot of acts are being put off of recording music, because they simply can’t afford it. I genuinely believe that there is a sagacious and realistic way to rectify the issue at hand. I feel that it is going to be unlikey that studios will reduce their rates; that banks will become a bit more trusting- the answer lies online. There are so many music websites and huge companies that work independently of social media sources such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+– it makes me wonder whether the bonds need to be formed. Music will never get to the stage where you will be able to record and distribute everything for free, so it seems that there needs to more support from the big names. Of course, once the musician is established and set-up they will be making money, thus able to afford to record as much as they desire- it is the sapling steps that trip up many. If big record labels or names such as Google, Virgin and Microsoft were to offer the initial funds need (on a quid pro quo basis) and then get their money back (without interest), then it not only makes it easier to get music into the studio- but draws together publicity outlets for said musicians. I am not sure, but I know that something needs to be done. I am impressed that so many new musicians keep plugging and recording- and find the money to make their music. I hope- in not too long a time- to be able to join them; accrue the necessary dosh, in order to get recording- it seems a (painfully) long way off. For the meantime, enjoy the sun (whilst thinking about it at least), and of course…

EAT Easter eggs!



Funding for musicians:






Crowd-sourcing websites:






Great sites for music sharing:








Starting your own record label:





Advice for new musicians:





Misc.: some of the best music sites in the world:







E.P. Review- The Tuts: time to move on





The Tuts


time to move on



The E.P., time to move on is released by Dovetown Records, and available from:



The gorgeous west London trio have been making waves since 2012. With their latest E.P., the Libertines-cum-Kate Nash mandates set them out as future festival headliners. At the moment, they are very much a ‘D.I.Y.’ band (handling all their own buisness themselves); although one thing is for sure: record labels will soon come a-knocking.


IT is always quite an unpredictable life, when you have my job…

Well I say ‘job’, because reviewing (for me), is really a hobby (until I can record my own music), but the point is this: I never know what I am going to come across. In terms of finding and discovering new music, I am very much my own man. Through Facebook and Twitter, I have quite a few musical friends- and am able to review their work now and then. It always gives me pleasure and satisfaction, when I am able to pormote a great act; wonderful music, and some serious ambition. Sometimes I come across some Scottish Pixie-esque wonder; occassionally some northern Pop and Rock comes to the fore- I even take my travels beyond the U.K. My iteinerary can often encompass sensations from the U.S., Europe and Australia- as well as E.I.R.E. As much as I love to digest some international sounds, I always find it paramount to extol the virtues of homegrown acts. After all, these are the acts that are on our doorsteps: those whom we can see perform live and meet in the flesh. The biggest benefit and necessity (with regards to reviewing U.K. acts) is that it makes you aware about the larger and wider music scene (in this country). There is always a bit of a tendency- when we think of music- to consider the mainstream and what is played on the radio day to day- without too much thought towards new acts. One of the hardest parts of my reviewer-by-day duties, is that I have to look hard for subjects to feature- far too hard as far as I am concerned. There are some great websites that offer up reviews of new artists, yet there are few sites in place, solely dedicated to channelling the augmentations of our sapling musicians. Over the past few months I have existed on a diet of social media contacts and chance occurrence- there seems to be no stability at all. I would love to hear about a great Australian Rock act from Victoria; a fresh Electro-Disco solo act from France; bustling Indie acts from Manchester- yet how would one ever hear of these? I guess- with the proliferation of new acts- it is near-impossible to catalogue them all; sepearate them by country, genre etc., yet it seems that an attempt should be made. I have been formulating plans (amongst many others) to get together an all-encompassing music website. On it, there would be tonnes of features and elements- amongst them would be a thorough representation of new musicians. I have always had the idea of being able to introduce something where you could click on a map; highlight a country/city; then break down the new musicians in that locale by genre/gender etc. and then get a list of the acts that fall under these categories. I digress, but my point is that a lot of my reviews happen by serendipity. I hope some future bright spark will rectify this malady very soon, but for now, I want to raise a couple more points. A lot of my reviews over the last couple of years, have focused on U.K. acts- most of whom eminate north of the border (north of Watford actually). The likes of Crystal Seagulls and Los and the Deadlines are London-based troupes, whom are putting the capital firmly on the map. Outiside of them, I have surveyed some south cost Pop acts as well as a few acts based in Surrey- yet they are in the minority. My featured three-piece hail from London and call Hayes home- an area and hotspot I shall investigate in more depth. I am glad to be putting London back in the spotlight. It is axiomatic to say that it is a city where a lot of new musicians pioneer and dream- yet the best and brightest are based further north. From experience, most of my ‘London reviews’ have focused on bands; those whom prefer their sounds heavier and more hard-hitting, I have found few solo acts or diverse acts to review (although they are definitely out there); there is a slight homogenisation. This is no bad thing, as the likes of Crystal Seaguls and Los and the Deadlines have proven- some of the most invigorating acts in the U.K. play out of London. It is- and should always be- the mecca and epicentre of what is current, fresh and alive; London has always offered up some of the greatest acts of all time- something I hope will not abate. This conundrum and consideration may be something that is a question for the ages, but recently, I have been thinking a lot about bands. Being someone keen to not only record my own music, but recruit a band, I am always on the look out for great talent. I have never been keen on being part of an all-male band; diversity and cross-polination have always seemed more appealing. When I look at bands at the moment, there is still a dominance of the male-only realm. Occassionally, you get some male-female bands (2-4 members typically), and there are all-female bands, yet the following is apt: the styles differ gretly. Th last time I surveyed an all-girl group whom played heavier sounds, was Fake Club. Since then (that was last year), you either find that the (all-girl) acts tend to be largely Pop-based or mould themselves around a former girl group. For the boys, the sounds tend to be harder and more energetic (there are fewer boybands)- I am not sure why. Ever since reviewing Fake Club (and being mesmerised by their music) I have been looking out for a similar act- a band that can offer that potency and promise. Today’s subjects provide the excitment I have been seeking. The London 3-piece act summon up the force and conviction of a four (or five-piece) male act- and do so in their inimitable and unique style.

When looking around for new bands, I have been somewhat dissapointed lately. Certain acts such as Kongos (U.S. funtime purveyors) provided no feedback or acknolwegement when I reviewed one of their songs- which left me feeling angry and jaded. I have- as a result- slowed by workrate, and going after bands whom seem deserving of attention or focus- and that would seem grateful for any review. It is a minor quibble, but it is better when a band (or act) can use a review or feature; spread the word and get more people atuned to their music. My featured trio, should have no fear: they will be big news, very soon. Our heroines are comprised, thus:

Nadia– Vocals and Guitar
Harriet– Bass and vocals
Bev– Drums

The girls, themselves, describe themselves in these terms: “We’re a feisty all girl punk band from West London! Recently supported Kate Nash on her UK tour, played Indietracks Festival and many indie pop and punk shows! We’re self-managed, completely DIY and book all our own shows“. One of the most impressive elements of new music, is when a band or act manages to put out music at all- such is the demanding nature of the industry. Record label bosses and venues tend to not come calling right from the start, so musicians are often charged with make all their own moves and making all their own decisions. The Tuts not only book their own gigs, but write their own music; organise all their day-to-day activities and movements- they are a three woman army. The girls are all striking and gorgeous to behold, yet it is when their music hits your ears, that the biggest impressions are made. Our heroines’ onomatepiac name translates as “To express annoyance, impatience, or mild reproof“- their music whips up a certain distain and rebellion. Rare is their brand of music, that many critics have been allured and staggered by their intentions. The Tuts have a natural home in the live arena, and make most of their music their. When they get into the studio, their energy and glory is not reduced or distilled- it is all in tact and restored. In 2012, their debut E.P., S/T gained the hearts of many fans (and new admireres). One reviewer was compelled to write: “West London three piece buzz like a female version of the Libertines. From the same town as the Ruts, with only a letter difference, the Tuts are a bundle of attitude and suss.” Songs such as I Call You Up (a fan favourite) is a two minute aural assult that puts me in mind of ’70s Punk as well as White Blood Cells-era The White Stripes. That track was a rallying call; yet contained melody and a sunmmery feel. The girls turned lyrics such as “And I’m not just starting beef but you’ve gone to sleep/And I’m shouting and I’m screaming for you“, into something toe-tapping and upbeat. One of the most striking things about The Tuts is their image. Although the girls have plenmty of genuine Punk and Rock spirit; grit and punch to their music, they have plenty of heart and tenderness. If you look at their personal website, it is awash with bright colours, cartoonish figures and vibrancy. The E.P. cover to S/T depicted the girls in shilloutte; colourfully-depicted- it was the kind of image that would adorn the album of a Pop album perhaps. There is a definite air or happiness, joyfulness and sun-kissed variegation. After the success of their debut E.P., combined with a sturdy and busy touring scchedule, the positive reviews flooded in:

As The Tuts rage on through the tracks in their self-titled EP, the crowd really starts to come alive, including one particularly enthusiastic fan sporting a pair of cat ears on her head. Insightful lyrics in Tut, Tut, Tut chip away at sexism in the music industry, whilst Nadia, sipping from a bottle of lager in between songs, becomes an embodiment of everything The Tut’s music stands for. The rest of the set, along with jokes about Nadia’s “hairy armpits” (they weren’t by the way) receive raucous applause from the audience, signalling that The Tuts have gained a venue’s-worth of new fans“.

The Ark Preston

Part of an ongoing girl-band renaissance that takes in everything from the dark post-punk of Savages and Zoëtrøpe to the lo-fi sounds of Woolf and Skinny Girl Diet, The Tuts instead take a refreshingly punked-up pop approach, citing their inspirations as everyone from The Beatles to Bikini Kill, and wielding enough classic-indie influences to make them serious contenders for mainstream appeal should word continue to spread“.

The Girls Are

The Tuts let themselves be free to be as cheeky, poppy and cute as like, which turns out to be very cheeky, poppy and cute. The band sound like a Kate Nash, Jack Penate and Shangri-las mash up, which can be most obviously seen in their latest song ‘Call Me Up’, an upbeat catchy number with candy coated riffs and sweet as pie vocals that will definitely take the girls far“.

Don’t Dance Her Down Boys

Very much the definition of power-trio, The Tuts burn with an erratic energy and songs that make an almighty racket. Think of them as southern England’s answer to The 5, 6, 7, 8s (remember them?!) and you’re on the right track…Afterwards they were more than happy to spend a good deal of time meeting and greeting; shifting merch and posing for photos with a few sweaty-browed gents and a seemingly limitless supply of starry-eyed, impressionable young girls“.

Liverpool Echo.

At the moment, our trio have just unveilled their second E.P., and it shows them in confident and uthoriative mood. Their online pages- Facebook, Twitter etc.- are informative and kept up-to-date, and their fan base is slowly growing. I am sure that with the release of time to move on, their legions will swell and multiply; demand will flood in from all parts of the U.K.- and venues will come calling. With the likes of the Reading and Leeds Festival playing host to the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age, there is a huge demand for groups whom provide heavy and impressive music. There is a definite niche and demand in the marketplace for groups that can provide the sort of kick that The Tuts have perfected. It is not just the music that has compelled so many, but the personalities of the girls. As well as being luminous and eye-catching with their online presentation, they are very much dedcicated to striking against sexism; reestablishing equality and balance- as well as coming across as relatable and tangible. On their Facebook page, the three-piece list their ‘interests’: “Gigs, drunken nights, eating pizza, playing sweet tunes, feminism, friendships, cuddling, craft, dancing, football, GIRL GANGS, horoscopes and being outspoken bad-ass bitches! Don’t let the patriarchy silence you. Confront sexism and racism head on“. It is clear that Nadia, Harriet and Bev have no intention of being labelled a ‘girl band’ or coming across as flyweight- they mean serious business. Amonst their influences, is the likes of Colour Me Wednesday, The Libertines, Best Coast, Kate Nash, Lemuria, Standard Fare, Martha, Perkie, Feeder, The Aquadolls, The Pipettes, and The Babies. It is the comparisons to- and the influence of- The Libertines that caught my mind. When listening to the girls’ debut E.P. I could hear comparisons with the (sadly defunct) band- especially their Up The Bracket work. The Libertines are one of my favourite bands of the past twenty years, and I have long-bemoaned their demise. It is a sad fact that broken relations (as well as drugs) disintergrated a group whom seemed capable of a long regency. A lot of modern acts are too shiny and polished; there is little intrigue; too little wit and bite in their lyrics. The Libs. boys offered up London back-alleys, deplorable characters; chancers and vagrants; broken love- all wrapped in their festival of sound. The Tuts have the spirit of The Libertines in their bones, and echo some of their finest moments in their threads and movements. As I sat down to review time to move on (knowing everything I do about the trio), I prepared myself for what is to come.

The first thing one notices about the E.P., is the attention to detail. The E.P.’s cover is a mesh of striking lettering, colourful washes and striking images. This consideration and allure is not confined to their visual presentations. From the first notes of Worry Warrior, it is clear that our heroines have seemlessly combined urgency with consideration and thought. A beautiful intro. is unleashed, that put me in mind of the U.S. You can imagine the sounds of Worry Warrior blaring from a speaker in Nashville; there is a bit of a Electro-Country feel to the first moments; the solid and stacatto drum beat gives it some kick and fun- making the combinatuion sound very much their own. I love the lo-fi and raw production sound as well. It sounds like you are listening to a live renedition of the track-it has that feel to it. Sam Brackley’s production gives the track the sensation of an early Libertines cut, but unlike Mick Jones’s efforts, sounds and sights are not buried in the mix- everything is clear and concise. You cannot help but be swept up in the gallop of percussion, drum and bass: the girls combine beautifully. When it comes to the lyrics, they point at some disatisfaction and anxiety (“I evern smile when I’m annoyed“). Our heroine’s voice is sweet and melodic, yet backed with genuine anger. With a Kate Nash-esque delivery, she states that “No one takes me seriously“. Unable to say no to other people, Javed is reflecting on the downside of her trusting and open nature: delivered with impecable energy and conviction. The song has elements of Kilamangiro‘s (by Babyshambles) energy; a bit of Happy Hour Housemartins- and a whole load of attitude by The Tuts. Towards the 0:40 mark, there is a rumbling and raw guitar, with Javed (Nadia) and Ishmael (Bev) clashing, backed (Harriet) Doveton’s solid bass. When proceedings are slowed, and our heroine is pounctuated by a catchy and powerful sonic blast; the song takes another twist. Speaking introspectively and inwardly (“I thought you were stronger“), our heroine comes to a conclusion: “time to move on“. The Surfer Rosa-era Pixies guitar/bass/drum swirls instantly transform back into lighter and linear territoy. Our heroine is back at the mic. as she looks back on life (“I used to fight to keep peace“); her voice inflected with a heavy heart. Such is the spirit and talent of the trio, that they can present such a unique and original song; yet put you in mind of others. The likes of The Bangles, The Libertines (Begging and Time for Heroes) as well as Nash come through: combined and concoted into a heady brew. As the chorus swagger in (with vocal duties being shared between Javed and Doveton), your feet will be tapping. There is such a raw and unadulaterated spike to the sound, that you can imagine yourself in a pub, listening to the song live- maybe being caught in the bow wave of a mosh pit. The final third of the song sees each of our players stepping up. A punchy and solid drum rattle comes forth; a wailing and electryfying guitar solo come in (Josh Homme, eat your heart out!); followed by a twirling and finger-picking bass coda. In the final seconds, the percussive and bass rush is juxtoposed by our heroine’s vocals; which, whilst still imploring and direct, are more relaxed and casual than her cohorts. As we come to the end, I have little time to reflect before the next track arrives: Dump Your Boyfriend. The version on the E.P. is a live one, and shows our heroines in their natural enviorment. With a vibrating and heady guitar storm (in the first few seconds), the track wastes no time in getting into your head. Again there is a slight hint of Kilamangiro, but the girls add weight, potency and force that Doherty and crew could only imagine. There is a Punk rush to the intro. that Buzzcocks undertones and a huge atmosphere whipped forth. Our heroine elonagates her words, as she recounts how peoplke advise her to dump her boyfriend; accusations are abound, as she admits: “But I can’t just dump/Duh-duh-dump my boyfriend/Accusations but what about all the birds in your tree?/So pull off the plaster for me“. Whereas the previous track was penned by Doveton, here Javed is a co-scribe; the two blending their talents together. The recording on the E.P. is clear and consise; like on Worry Warrior, the production allows clarity and consision- making the track stronger for it. The subject of the song has obviously caused issues; our heroine seemingly stuck in a rut (“He took my liberty away/(but I stay)/He clipped my wings so I stay/(can’t run away)/I’ll put it off for another day“). Dump Your Boyfriend has a relentless and unslakable energy and drive (unsurprsing consider the song’s topics); the vocal performance mixes languruous and laid-back with urgent and spiky- the percussion, bass and guitar once again rampant. It seems like there is a lot of regret and hesitation in the mottifs of The Tuts; the need to break away and change is clear, yet there is something holding them back. This is perhaps concecrated in one of the song’s final lines: “Easier said than done, I don’t want to jump the gun“. At just over 1:30, Loving It is the shortest of the four tracks (five, including the remix of Worry Warrior). After a brief lead-in/intro. (with some tantilising shades of Queens of the Stone Age) it is down to business, as our heroine steps to the mic. Caught in the riptide and franticnous of her colleagues’ combinations, our heroine states “It’s making me go mental”- although it is unclear, to begin, what this is referring to. As it is said (that) “We don’t see the struggle” there is a beautiful little guitar, bass and drum stutter and rush (the song snakes and turns in different direction) that adds a sonic smile to proceedings. Our heroine’s vocal is dependably direct and convicning; displaying its hallmarks or sedate and elliptical; breezy and spiky. The vocal delivery- as well as the composition itself- changes directions and pace, giving the song a constant electricity. You cannot help but kick your feet out when the composition is syncopated; unveil a grin when our heroine sings “I’m loving it“- there is a pause- before delivering”It’s making me…”. Again The Tuts seemlessly inject flavour notes of past hits and bands (there were one or two ’60s and ’70s toches and familiarities I enjoyed), with a distinct sound of 2014 London. I would say that Loving It is the catchiest song of the set (thus far); it packs so much dance, jive, rush and movement into 92 seconds- it is hard not to be impressed. The final (original) track of the E.P. is 1,2,3. After a sojourn of percussive pattering- that summons and tees up the vocals- our heroine steps into view. If the song’s title and nursery rhyme delivery makes you think our London trio are penning a song for the young, the first lyric snippets quickly dispel that. Whether the song is directed towards a former sweetheart or ex-friend, it is unsure, but whomever it is, a lot of anger has been provoked. Semblances such as “4,5,6/You can suck my dick” suggest that a common enemy has stirred some hostility; a need to right wrongs and change things is evident (“I wanna take back the night“). Our heroine wants to feel okay; to roll her car window down and shout out- the vocal here is one of the most nuanced and intruiging on the E.P. The entire band performance is (I guess not too shiockingly) tight and mobile; like Loving It, there is a lot of pace changes and direction shifts- meaning that you are always kept to attention. If some of the lyrics point towards juvenille petulance or infantile tongue sticking-out, the vocal performance and wit transcends any doubts. Such is the nature of the band- raw but upbeat; Punk but sensitive- you know that there must have been a smile on their faces when the lines were delivered. Like contemporaries Kate Nash, The Tuts are able to deftly weave witticism with vulgar; sensitive with spiked heels- and make it sound fresh and new. As with the opening three tracks, matters are dealt with with succint regard and concision. No track outstays its welcome, and each track arrives and plays like an explosion: it lasts a fairly short time yet leaves its impressions. By the final strains of 1,2,3 the listener is slightly exhausted and bruised- yet better for it.

On their BandCamp page, the band offered a Deluxe Edition of the E.P. (that included: 1x copy of the brand new EP ‘time to move on’ with signed lyrics booklet + immediate download of the tracks!/1x ‘Always hear the same shit’ Earth Positive T-shirt! (please pick your size! listed below!)/1x ‘Dump your boyfriend’ 13cm tall embroidered patch!!!/1x Tuts plectrum in either pink or blue! (please specify in order if you have preference!)/1x Tuts mirror!/1x Limited edition high quality cartoon tuts gig poster!/1x Limited Edition ‘Happy happy birthday to me records’ mix cassette tape featuring The Tuts & other Indie pop artists from around the world!/1x Randomly chosen hand printed mini patch! (over 4 different designs available!)/1x Akbar Ali Artwork zine/3x Tuts stickers/1x Badge pack). It is evident that the three-piece have a lot of respect and time for their fans. Their website and online portfolio is jam-packed and informative- fans and newcomers have eveything they need. It is impressive that the girls handle all their own business, and run the show: you get the impression they would not want it any other way. By having full artistic control, they have been able to play the gigs they want and make the music truest to them. One feels, however, that labels and venues will be knocking at their door. I have reviewed enough new music to know that the trio will be in demand very soon. Their sound is both evocative, familiar- yet definied by a unique and personal direction and flair. They are a tight and impressive force, and their live performances have gained huge praise. Music is a cruel and unpredicatble mistress where many get buried under its weight. The girls should consider the possibility of being future headline acts; of having many eyes cast their way. At the moment, they are probably more concerned with seeing how time to move on does. I was thoroughly impressed by not only the quality of the songs, but also of the range that they presented. Flavours of the Punk masters of old come to the fore; sparks of The Libertines and Kate Nash can be detected within- all contained within solid and memorable tracks. If I had one suggestion for The Tuts, it would be to allow some additional hands into camp. I know that they are skillfully managing their own careers, yet there are going to be label bosses and record companies that would snap them up in a heartbeat. Creative control and input would not have to be compromised; but the girls would have the opportunity to play their music as far and wide as possible. Bars, venues and localities within New York and California have similar bands (doing good business) here; Australia and Europe are all have definite room in the market for the likes of The Tuts. As much as anything, there are plenty of towns and cities throughout the U.K. whom would love to hear from the girls. That said, they play Cardiff, Birmingham and Exeter in the next few weeks, and will be taking their blend of song to some new faces. When compiling a new band, I would kill for the likes of Nadia, Harriet and Bev. Such is the mark of a great act, that they not only inspire your own work and motivation- but also make you rethink. I have been writing music that is lacking in guts and boldness. The likes of Worry Warrior and 1,2,3 have provided fresh inspiration, and I find myself re-inspired (once more). The ’90s (and early-’00s) was the last time we saw a genuine wave of exciting and new London bands- The Libertines included- so it is great that The Tuts are coming through. Like I said up top, there are plenty of London acts out there, yet few manage to bustle through the herd and steal focus. This year has been an encouraging one for new music, and provided more diversity and quality than I have heard for a long time. I am not sure what future market trends will be, but it is clear that the likes of The Tuts will be around to find out. I hope that as many people as possible listen to time to move on (buy it is as well), and go see them live, as they are determined to be around for as long as possible. It is the mutual friendships and strong bonds between the girls that will keep them togethger- so do not expect any Doherty-esque downfall. The music is impressive and nuanced, and there is something in there for everyone. Too many new acts arrive, implore hard- only to be forgotten about. With our trio doing what they are doing…

THAT will not be something they have to worry about.

 time to move on cover art


                 Track Listing:

Worry Warrior9.4/10

Dump Your Boyfriend (Live)9.3

Loving It- 9.6

1,2,3 9.3

Worry Warrior (Remix)- 9.4

Standout Track: Loving It.


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Album Review: Universal Thee- Back to Earth





Universal Thee

Back to Earth



The album Back to Earth is released by Eventual Heirs, and available from:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/back-to-earth/id840152482 and https://play.spotify.com/album/7gHtnqBMpjTbsRNZtCABIJ?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open


The band are- in their own words- “distinctly Scottish“; their ambition and drive seriously impressive- the results speak for themselves. On their debut L.P., they give the listener a glimpse into strange scenes and vivid themes: this five-piece mean business.


IN today’s review I will investigate a band I have a lot of respect for.

The quintet is a group that have been working hard to ensure that their debut album is as fresh and engaging as possible; promoting it, making sure that it reaches as many ears as possible. I shall arrive at Universal Thee’s door in due time, but have been thinking about a few things (as-of-late). In my last feature, I investigated the 20th birthday of a rather special time/genre of music- ‘Britpop’. When looking back at this wonderful time, it occurred to me how many wonderful acts were part of this movement. The obvious leaders such as Oasis and Blur were making the biggest noises, but so many bands were joining together, ensuring that British music was at the forefront of the world’s attention. For me, the most impressive aspect of the ‘Britpop’ era was the invention and fun that was abound. By 1997, introspection and something more mood-lit was entering the scene, but the years between 1993-1997 saw a succession of elliptical and joyful anthems being produced. The bands of the time were intent of ensuring that as many feet were moving as possible; that their songs stuck in the memory and were not easily forgettable. When that period ended, and music started to reincorporate U.S. influences, the party, it seemed, was over. I mention ‘Britpop’ as it was a time that not only saw some wonderful music being produced, but spurned a lot of creativity and rivalry between the groups of the time. As of now, music seems to be a little more compartmentalized. Perhaps it is the sheer weight and number of acts making sounds, but reciprocation is rarer: there is not the same encouragement and bâtonnage happening. During ‘Britpop’, although there was a great sense of unity and patriotism, the rivalries (such as Blur v. Oasis) inspired acts to push themselves as much as possible- meaning that the quality of music was much greater. Perhaps I am living in the past, and still wearing my violet shades, but what happened to that? As well as there being less overt jocularity and joy in music, the nature of competitiveness and thoughtfulness seem a little compressed. Bands tend to keep to themselves; solo acts likewise; I just wonder whether market forces and modern times have enforced this. My abiding point is that it is a lot harder for new bands to get recognised; to be inspired and pushed as much as possible- meaning that few acts establish a long-term foothold in the scene. It is clear that there are a lot of new musicians popping up (each day it seems), but the channels of communication and bonds seem to have broken down. Over the course of my reviews, I have surveyed a great deal of bands and solo acts that emanate from the same area- yet neither is aware of any of their contemporaries. One of the greatest pleasures I have taken from promoting certain musicians, is that they have been able to connect with other local acts- and as such have been able to help one another’s trajectory. The music industry is a hard and unforgiving one, and whilst it may be impossible to return to the symphonic glories of ‘Britpop’, there is no reason why some of the spirit and hallmarks cannot be retained. To my mind, music requires a bit of a shift. The best and bravest music seems to be emanating from the north of England- as well as Scotland. Yorkshire is establishing itself as a county synonymous with phenomenal and daring musicians; of huge sonic range and diversity- as well as a scene that is going to see many future stars. Scotland is promising similarly encouraging signs. I have seen many great Indie acts; some wonderful solo artists as well, each with their own distinct sound and armoury. Although it is impossible to unite all musicians and galvanise the entire scene, it is imaginable that local acts can conjoin. Too many times I have seen similar-sounding or like-minded acts, sometimes within a few miles of one another- yet neither is aware of the existence of the other. Just a small connection like this will not only mean that the act/band have a connection; they also have someone whom can promote their music- and encourage a little competition/rivarly. Music is a wonderful industry and sector that gives opportunities to all to present their intentions. It is also one of the most unforgiving and unpredictable ones, as well. A new act- one fill of potential and promise- deserves as much support and community as possible- I fear this is being lost. If a greater sense of connectivity and mutual appreciation were to be initiated, it not only provides anxiety relief to new musicians, but ensures that they are incentivized to push themselves creatively; thus ensuring that they a waiting audience and market years from now.

Universal Thee are a band fully worthy of a lengthy and happy career. I have been familiar with the Scot five-piece for over a year now, and followed their path closely. The music they offer, not only is imbued with some of the fun and alacrity of the ‘Britpop’ era; yet also contains a wide colour palette and diverse sounds. Based out of Edinburgh, they play in a locality with many fervent and wonderful acts. I know that they have some connections and friends within the local scene, yet it appears that there are many more bands and solo acts, not attuned to Universal’s sounds. Our endeavouring quintet have made some critical impressions, and (Back to Earth) has received some notable praise; yet I feel that the group would be having an easier time of things, were their local colleagues to lend a hand. I shall return to my theme in the conclusion, but let me take you inside the busy and bustling camp of one of Scotland’s best and most electrifying young bands. I have been fortunate enough to have reviewed Universal Thee once before (back in May, 2013) when investigating their song All Is Love. In my banner headline, I announced the group thus: “5-piece, have vocal stream-of-consciousness, and a strong ear for melody. The Saltire is being strengthened by some prophetic wind and wonderful melody“. When listening to the track, I was impressed by the conviction and quality I heard, stating: “The opening notes have shades of early R.E.M., curiously, as well as light-edged Radiohead. Maybe there is some Jack White to be heard- circa White Blood Cells“. A year has passed, and the intrepid band have unveiled their debut L.P., Back To Earth. Before I dip into the disc (and fill in some blanks), a bit about the band themselves- and where they have come from: “Distinctly Scottish band, Universal Thee have been both delighted and surprised with national radio play within days of their most recent recording sessions, showing they have achieved their aim of creating music of wider appeal than their current Edinburgh base. Attention for the band has been beginning to mount and they have been taken on by Napier University on a band development initiative. With a range of songs and styles, the five-piece, led by husband and wife, James and Lisa Russell, provide a Pixies-esque loud-quiet-loud dynamic, mixing slacker rock, grunge and indie pop. It is James talent for writing catchy melodies delivered by beautiful male/female harmonies, matched with Robin’s ability to create diverse and powerful lead guitar hooks, that ensures listeners will be singing their songs for days. Although their music gives a nod to their many interesting and diverse influences such as Ash, Pixies, Weezer and Queens of the Stone Age (amongst others), fans and bloggers agree that they genuinely have their own new, distinct and exciting sound. The blog site musicmusingsandsuch sought to describe their sound, stating: “as well as melody, there is a great deal of exciting noise; this combination, combined with male and female (lead) vocals, elicits an almost-Grunge/Punk splendour, rarely attempted in the 21st century”. The band has been recording with Garry Boyle for their gentler folky sound (previously involved in the Pixar Brave soundtrack and SAMA winners, The Holy Ghosts, album) and Ross McGowan, (producer of Fat Goth and Dananananaykroyd) for their heavier work and are working with PR company A Band of Friendship, to promote, and release, their first single and Album in early 2014, with a tour scheduled to compliment the releases“. Our five-piece have influences that range from Pixies and Ash; through Weezer and Pavement- to the gilded shores of Queens of the Stone Age. The combination of solid and diverse influences; together with a natural talent and direction, have seen many critics heaping praise upon their L.P.:

What do you find so on Back to Earth? Abductees and catchy melodies that easily remembered and listen loop. Guitars sometimes coaxing, usually energetic and angular. Two voices, boy / girl who complement each other well and gives their side a bit rough and scratchy, dirty and brutal look a little dry, even the softer tracks“.

Dans Le Mur… Du Son

A very good debut album indeed with some cracking songs too“.

Pat McGuire, MyvoiceofScotland

Back to Earth is a nice album. It doesn’t wow you immediately but it’s a grower and the more you listen to it, the more you get from it“.


James and Lisa Russell’s dual singing produces light and shade, with the latter’s soaring vocal’s adding angelic serenity…”

Daily Record

I will get down to investigating Back to Earth, anon, and pay my respects. I know how hard the entire band have been working- to ensure the L.P. sees the light of day. As well as promoting it tirelessly, band members have been working endlessly to raise the funds needed to record the album. It has been a labour of love, and one that the group have been striving towards for a long time now. Most new bands (or those at Universal Thee’s stage) usually put out an E.P. (or two), yet the Edinburgh group were determined to put out a full-length disc. The decisions and hard work have been paying dividends (so far), and it will give them the confidence to think ahead to album number two- or a possible E.P. Let me, then, get down to business…

The twisting and snaking intro. of Bone Collector is the first sound of the album. “You never wanna bring it up” is a coda that is repeated; James’s vocals punchy and accusatory. With an emphatic and crunching riff, the song steps up a gear after the 1:00 mark; Lisa and James combine vocally; telling the tale of a man whom never wanted to be a “city re-erector“. With shades of Bossavova-era Pixies, the track never loses momentum on energy- changing from softer and more tender implore to blitzkrieg guitar and percussion burst. With a simple and catchy chorus and a tight and impressive band performance, it is a perfect opener: our heroes waste no time in making impressions. Tiger Tiger’s gorgeous- yet hard-nailed- intro. leads a track that is almost lullaby-like. Sentiments and lines are twisted; considered and elongated to maximum effect (“These are the words/of the everlasting verse” are delivered especially potently). Boasting a particular impressive vocal performance (from both our leads), the guitar, bass and drums melt and spar with one another; infuse perfectly, before streaming like a river. Although Bone Collector may be the more memorable of the opening two tracks; Tiger Tiger offers more sonic intrigue: it is a strong and confident composition. Wolves of the Netherworld (again) has a shorter intro.; sparing little time with reflection before the vocals arrive. With a mantra that puts the central figure “Down there bobbing at the bottom of the sea“, it is a track that has a similar sound and pace (of the opening duo); yet seems more upbeat and sing along. With some elements of early-career Ash and Pavement, it is another catchy and bouncy track. The song is delivered with such abandon and energy that it comes to an end all too soon- making you want to hear more. With a softer and more gentle beginning, Feeling Fragile may be the hangover- following the drunken delirium that proceeded it. Our hero and heroine share vocals; yearning to be home and get away from a dead scene. The song has some U.S. roots; with the likes of The Magic Numbers and Document-era R.E.M. coming through. Line such as “Everything’s broken/You know” paint dislocated image- given emotive weight and conviction due to the tender vocal performances. You can imagine our band wandering a dust road, looking for some salvation- something to rescue them. It is a song that not only provides a needed comedown, but also shows a different (sensitive) side to the group. Eric‘s rumbling intro. and breakneck vocal performance cranks the energy-o-meter back to 11. In the way that our two leads combine; James yelps and adds menace to certain words, it has clear elements of Pixies, particularly their work during Dolittle and Surfer Rosa. Some of the guitar twangs and strikes have some of Joey Santiago’s memories in them- not that the track is too Pixie-esque. You can hear the distinct- and native- accents of our leads shine through. There is no U.S. inflections or Americanization: Scottish brogue is evident when the duo sing “Eric was a lonely guy/Lonely guy“. It is a combustible and frantic track that is done with in just over one minute- the pummeling pace leaves you a little breathless by the end. Down perfectly calms proceedings again- at first. Like Feeling Fragile, it sees our band in more considered and reflective mood. The track mutates into a sprightley and toe-tapping number before the 1:00 marker; the words “And down and down and down/You make me go round and round and round” elicited. With some flavour notes of legends such as The Kinks (in the composition), it is a song that catches you with its chorus. The strong and impressive vocal performance (from James and Lisa) enforces the catchiness; the tight and punchy guitar and percussion makes sure it sticks in your brain. There is an air of ’60s grooviness; there is such a swaying and psychedelic charm to the song, that it implores you to get up and dance- to surrender to its charms. Down is one of the L.P.’s longest tracks, and followed the shortest (Eric). Arriving as a mid-album fulcrum, Make a Little Money (Then You Die) pulls up. With a rumbling and dazzling intro. energy and invigoration are instilled early on. Again there are elementary shades of Pixies; with Come On Pilgrim’s gentler and more melodic moments, springing to mind. Whereas previous tracks such as Eric and Bone Collector have pervaded a similar sound and evocation; perhaps Make a Little Money‘s is a little less urgent and bracing than if it were higher up the order. Regardless, it is a charming and memorable mid-album track; all the band’s components (strong vocal interplay; multi-layered and intelligent compositions) are solid. Perhaps Down‘s intoxicating sound and chorus are still in my mind; yet Make a Little Money (Then You Die)’s ideas and lyrics seem pertinent. Perhaps you can apply the song’s title to the struggle most bands face: working hard until they make a little money; but by then it is too late (to do anything with it). Perhaps not the quintet’s finest moment, it is one that seems relevant and personal to them- perhaps some sardonic humour is at work. Kicking off the second half (the band’s previous single) Aranis Natas arrives. I am familiar with this track already; with its chugging and rumbling intro.; its scowling and grumbling vocals- all its wonder. Like Down, the song’s title is repeated and tempted; rallied and chanted- this time James gives a particular determined and gravelly delivery. Our heroes (Lisa and James combine) state that “Even if you see it“, then it’s “never gonna last“. Aside from the Byzantine and baroque title (that conjure up all sorts of images), there is a great quiet-loud dynamic that keeps the song on its toes. Although Feeling Fragile more textured and subtle; Aranis Natas is more urgent and forceful. A mid-song musical parable levels proceedings and provides chance for absorption- before the vocal force is back into view. The song is filled with humour; the entire group combine wonderfully- and the vocal performance of our two leads is perhaps the strongest so far. It is- and was- a rightful hit, and a song that is still getting great feedback and attention. Bear In the Hospital, with its light and cascading intro. has hints of early (The) Libertines; footnotes of Weezer (perhaps). You can tell from the title, that humour is going to be evident within. It is, but personal utterances and confessions seep in; something more direct: “Don’t wear me out/’cause you don’t know what I’m all about“. Boasting the most impressive guitar and bass work on the album, it is a track that bolsters Aranis Natas’s intentions- and provides a strong one-two. With qualitative shades of R.E.M.’s Near Wild Heaven, there is a similar Out of Time adventurous joy and strong melody. The quintet have been celebrated for their gift with a melody, and it is the way that a little of Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out) arpeggio; mixed with Jack White’s Never Far Away; with whispered dark edges of Pixie’s Debaser, that creates a fairytale/balletic skip and step. Lisa’s vocals are warm and sensuous: little honeyed edges of cherry country and folk, melting with a some U.S. indie edges too. The result is soothing and sexy. Similarly, the masculine edges from James’s voice compliment perfectly, and when “I see it/More now than ever” is sung, the resultant chemical reaction is soothing and beautiful. Pelican Crossing gallops and bounces from the off; with perhaps some edges of Free All Angels Ash in the mix. The track boasts a beautiful melody and vocal performance; our hero yearning “to be free again“. The sound pulls away from ’80s U.S. Punks and Grunge and towards U.K.-based Rock and Pop- perhaps with some 1960s semblance. The antepenultimate track, She Was a Whore has similar sonic evocations as All Is Love (there is a similar feel). The song tells of a central figure; unattached and uncaring, whom does not seem concerned by anything happening around her. The anti-heroine is put in the spotlight, as it is claimed: “Daytime, night-time/Any time at all/She’ll come to my bedroom door“. The lyrics are vivid and scene-setting, but the sound has a lot in common (maybe a wee too much) with other tracks on the set. Not to say that it does not distinguish itself (it does), but it does so lyrically, rather than sonically. The words make me smile, no less, and the band demonstrate another side to them, as they survey a rather salacious character (perhaps that has infested their lives at some point). Before the swan song arrives, Shallow Juvenile arrives, and, as the title may suggest offers another anti-hero. Focusing on a somewhat petulant and immature central figure, the song sees the phrase “I’m never going back” bent, elongated and repeated- almost as a rally cry. After some delightful whistling and (I may be wrong) xylophone interlude, the infectious coda is once more, unfurled. The track has a breezy and U.S. vibe to it, and wonder whether future producers will snap it up- as it could be ready-made to score a drama or Indie film. With some acoustic tenderness, Million Voices closes the L.P. With our hero asking: “Is it real?/Is it fake?“, the vocal is fast-paced, and has a distinctly American sound to it. There is a touch of Grandaddy in there (that same sort of high-pitched sound); perhaps a little They Might Be Giants, too- a straddling of East and West Coast U.S.A. When our heroine steps in, perhaps a little romance is lost when it is said: “You’ve got a beautiful face/You’ve got a f*****-up inside“. This bold honesty is juxtaposed with some honest emotion- a few seconds later (“Every winter/We lose/One million voices“). That combination of spiky and direct offering from Lisa, proceeding James’s earnest and impassioned croon is a terrific effect- when they combine during the chorus, there is an odd yet natural unity. After a lot of rambunctiousness and electricity, it is fitting that the album end with something more tempered and softer. Million Voices fades (the only track on the L.P. that does, I think), and Back to Earth touches down and settles- ending a tremendous debut.

Some reviewers have alluded to the fact that the album feels a little bloated at times- maybe there are a few too many tracks. Perhaps there are the odd one or two songs- She Was a Whore and Make a Little Money (Then You Die)– that do not match the dizzying heights of their best work, yet they should have no fear. It is a brave decision to release an L.P. at all (if you are a new act), and it shows that the band are as ambitious as they come. By having 14 tracks, it shows the full range and intentions of a hungry young group. Perhaps trimming a track or two would result in a leaner and more muscular set, yet I found no weak or filler material in the set- a big achievement in itself. No track lasts longer than needed, and because of the expert and atmospheric production, each song is compelling and intriguing. Back to Earth is the summation of months of hard planning and work; saving and scrmiping; dreaming and desire. The five-piece should be very proud of what they have achieved, and in tracks such as Aranis Natas and Down they have crafted some modern-day gems. You can hear clear influences such as Pixies and Pavement in quite a few of the tracks, yet it is no distraction: there is never too strong an aroma or semblance. Too many modern acts tend to staple themselves to the banks of Arctic Monkeys or whomever they deem to be ‘fashionable’ or ‘commercially viable’. Other groups tend to replicate an existing band’s sound- in the hope that it will see them held in high esteem by critics and fans alike. Universal Thee have a varied back catalogue and range of influences, and sprinkle scents and flavour notes into their templates. The abiding sensation is of a hungry group with a clear identity and a desire to mingle and nestle with the best bands of the moment. The sonic offerings from Spivey, Perrie and Haddow are compelling and evocative, throughout. The vocal interplay of Mr. and Mrs. Russell is the most alarming and memorable facet. Each has a unique voice that adds texture and variance to each track; yet when they combine the effect is impressive and indelible. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Universal Thee do not stick with one particular ‘sound’; in the sense that they pervade a certain timber and pace- and replicate that over the course of 10 or 11 tracks. Each song on the L.P. has its own gravity and pattern, and as such, as the album feels fuller and more diverse (there will be a song to fit everyone’s moods and tastes). Like Queens of the Stone Age’s album …Like Clockwork, there are immediate smashes; and a whole set of tracks that grow and reveal their charms. By the fifth or sixth listen, the full force and effect of the album hits, and unveils its intricacies and nuance. Kudos goes to the production, which mixes Gil Norton-esque authority (think Dolittle and Echo Park) with Butch Vig majesty. Tracks are never too cluttered or too sparse; full consideration is given to summoning as much atmosphere as possible. I began this review by bemoaning the lack of comradery and social linking between bands. There is a thriving music scene in Scotland, and many great bands and acts working hard. Universal Thee are amongst the best and most striking, and deserve wider acclaim. If a few of their local cohorts were to help spread the word- as well as provide some rivalry and competitive incentive- then it could help augment the charms and sparks of a brilliant young band. I know that the bars and venues of London are seeking Universal Thee’s Pixies-cum-modern Britain blend; the likes of the U.S., Australia and Europe could provide a home for their mandates- a vast enterprise of fandom awaits. Although the group are in their fledgling stages- and have a lot more ahead of them- I am sure they are going to be thinking ahead, and looking at horizons; markets and countries to be conquered etc. For those whom like their sounds harder and imperious, then there is a lot to treasure. That said, a great deal of melody and softness lingers within Back to Earth– it is an album that does not subjugate or discriminate; it wants to draw everyone in. Bias aside, the band are a friendly and likeable group of musicians doing everything they can to get their music heard. As much as anything, they are inspiring me to write and be daring; to aim as high as possible and change my way of thinking (in terms of songwriting). Too many bands have a disposable nature and one-dimensional charm- few manage to remain ensconced within the collective memory. I hope that this year- as well as future ones- see our heroes subvert natural expectations, and claim their place alongside their idols- Queens’, Pixies, Pavement etc. Give their album a listen, absorb its layers and myriad sounds, and witness a band on the rise; one whom…

HAVE no intention of calling it a day any time soon.


Back to Earth Track Listing:

Bone Collector9.4/10

Tiger Tiger9.3

Wolves of the Netherworld9.3

Feeling Fragile 9.4

Eric- 9.0

Down- 9.6

Make a Little Money (Then You Die)- 8.6

Aranis Natas– 9.7

Bear In the Hospital9.3

All Is Love9.5

Pelican Crossing9.2

She Was a Whore8.7

Shallow Juvenile 9.1

Million Voices 9.4

Standout Track: Aranis Natas.


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Feature: ‘Britpop’ at 20- Lest We Forget.


‘Britpop’ at 20:


Lest We Forget.


It has been twenty years since the music phenonemum called ‘Britpop’ arrived. In a period that saw some of the greatest albums and songs created, I look back at a wonderful era of music- and the legacy that has been left.


QUITE a special birthday party has just happened in the music world.

In fact, it is more of an anniversary as much as anything. ‘Britpop’ is a genre and period of music that has seen some of the greatest music ever witnessed, presented. In terms of sheer quality, I feel that this period was synonymous with music of the highest order. Before I investigate the background of this magical period, I shall give you a quick dictionary definition (of ‘Britpop’) from Wikipedia: “Britpop is a subgenre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom. Britpop emerged from the British independent music scene of the early 1990s and was characterised by bands influenced by British guitar pop music of the 1960s and 1970s. The movement developed as a reaction against various musical and cultural trends in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly the grunge phenomenon from the United States In the wake of the musical invasion into the United Kingdom of American grunge bands, new British groups such as Suede and Blur launched the movement by positioning themselves as opposing musical forces, referencing British guitar music of the past and writing about uniquely British topics and concerns“. Before I investigate the bands, moments and influences of ‘Britpop’, I just want to mention a couple of small points. The anniversary (or birthday) is one that brings out mixed emotions in me. On the one hand, it is great to look back at the music, moments and scenes that made up the movement. I still have many terrific albums from the time, and it was tremendous witnessing (first-hand) all of the highs and lows- as well as catfights! As much as anything, this period made Britain a music nation to be reckoned with; more so than during the ’80s, and the energy and combativeness amongst out musicians was incredible. Bands and acts upped their games; rivalries were formed and a unempeachable sense of ‘coolness’ lingered in the air. I am sure that many musicians today are directly influenced by the greatest pioneers of ‘Britpop’ and one cannot help but to smile when looking back. In another sense, it is a little bit sad as well. I think back to the early to mid-’90s and as brilliant as it was, you wonder this: will we ever see the like again? My first inclination is to say no, really, as I guess that the genre came out of a particular time period; as a reaction to a previous musical era- perhaps something that could only have existed when it did. Perhaps, though, music was just different twenty years ago. There is quality to be found, but you do not have the same fervency and excitement in music now, as we did then. The rivalries and Oasis vs. Blur battles were a one-off; the exceptional and definitional albums produced then, have not been replicated, and some of the magic has been lost- music has changed directions somewhat. Of course, it would be foolish to think that something exactly like ‘Britpop’ would ever reoccur- it was a very unique period. I guess I miss the band feuds, the phenomenal output and the spirit that filled the air in the ’90s. If any lessons have been learned and influenced and direction provided, then that is something that is to proud of. I am sure that many new musicians would not have existed were it not for the acts and talent that roamed the scene back then; many coming through will be indebted to the exhilaration, diversity and potency of that wonderful time- I hope that the legacy is never lost. I shall touch more on this in the conclusion, but let me take you back… to the birth of ‘Britpop’.

In the early-’90s, a huge musical transition was taking place. Th 1980s was a bit of a dour and unspectacular decade for music. There were some great U.K. acts such as The Smiths working hard; brilliant U.S. music like Michael Jackson and Prince were setting the times ablaze; yet by the time 1990 rolled into view, a change was required. That change (that started off in the late-’80s) was Grunge. Being a fan of the genre, I was sad to see it die away, and it acts such as Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana were masters of the craft. In fact, the death of Kurt Coabin (in 1994) was perhaps the most significant event with regards to the death of Grunge. Nirvana were riding the crest of the wave in 1991-2, following the release of Nevermind; that album was one of the greatest ever produced, and contemporaries were inspired to follow suit. Fantastic movements and creations were released, and the Grunge masters were each making their marks on the music world. It was a distinctly heavy and hard movement, yet one that has softer moments, and in the minds of Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden)- intelligent and stunning songwriters. I suppose each new music wave arrives as a reaction to one past; usually an angry one that necessitates an instant change. Grunge was as a reaction to what came before; ‘Britpop’ was the reaction to Grunge. When Cobain died in 1994, the genre started to die away. It was around this time, that a transition started to occur in music. Whereas Grunge was a distinctly U.S.-led genre, ‘Britpop’- obviously- was ours alone. The U.S. had been enjoying a musical hegemony from the late-’80s through to the first years of the 1990s, and it was their music that was leading the way. In the U.K., our young artists were keen to change this; to introduce a new movement that would blow away the dominant and hard-hitting Grunge cobwebs- and present something more melodic and less forceful. It is hard to say when the ignition was sparked; when the first flame was lit, yet journalist John Harris suggests some insight: “[I]f Britpop started anywhere, it was the deluge of acclaim that greeted Suede’s first records: all of them audacious, successful and very, very British”. Suede were the first of the new crop of guitar-orientated bands to be embraced by the UK music media as Britain’s answer to Seattle’s grunge sound. Their debut album Suede became the fastest-selling debut album in the history of the UK. In April 1993, Select magazine featured Suede’s lead singer Brett Anderson on the cover with a Union Flag in the background and the headline “Yanks go home!”. Other say that the release of Blur’s Popscene (in 1992). Of course, we can see ‘Britpop’ was happening before Cobain’s death, yet the full force and insurgency occurred during 1994- it was the most pivotal year for ‘Britpop’. Whenever the movement truly began is unsure, yet it was clear that the U.K. acts had grown tired of the American scene and way of life. It seems that us Brits had a desire to grab back the limelight and focus, and the combined surge of desire and fresh music started something truly wonderful. I will look at the defining bands, moments and fights of this transitory period, but want to look back at ‘Britpop’s lineage. When the genre was starting out in the early-’90s, the bands and acts that were making modern sounds, were distinctly looking back. Guitar and Pop music of the ’60s and ’70s were key influences, and flavours of The Beatles, The Kinks and The Smiths were all evident. The Indie scene itself was a direct ancestor of ‘Britpop’, and the influence of The Smiths as well as the ‘Madchester‘ wave were forefathers. The early years of ‘Britpop’ (1991/2-1993) were defined more with a shoegazing and lighter sound. Emphasis was placed on good times and joyousness, and albums from that time reflected this. Past masters such as Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses were acting as the templates the bands of this time, and it seemed like a deliberate act. Grunge is synonymous with depression and foreboding heaviness; the direct shift to the other end of the music spectrum showed just how angry and annoyed our musicians were (with Grunge). Clearly a desire for happier and merry music was enforcing the young artists of the U.K. I suppose ‘Britpop’ was more of a band arena, and the music-buying public were looking for vocal/drum/guitar/bass configurations- the solo realm had a minor role during the period. Because of the emphasis on Britain and British-ness, it was difficult for many artists, when trying to get their music appreciated in the U.S. Towards the mid-’90s, there was a commercial shift, yet initially, the ‘Britpop’ movement seemed to be confined to the U.K. Music critic Jon Savage asserted that Britpop was “an outer-suburban, middle-class fantasy of central London streetlife, with exclusively metropolitan models.”

When we think of the defining acts of the ‘Britpop’ regency, inevitably minds go to Blur and Oasis. Their pitched battles and warfare (which I shall elaborate on) was the defining period of the era, and produced some spectacular moments. In a recent poll from N.M.E., the track Common People by Pulp was declared as the greatest ‘Britpop’ anthem- by the magazine’s readers. Pulp was a band whom were natural rivals for the likes of Blur and Oasis. They formed in the late-’70s, but hit a commercial peak in 1995 with their album, A Different Class. That album was infused with fresh and wonderful scenes on modern-life; working-class snippets and aspects of dislocated love. Pulp’s frontman, Jarvis Cocker, has the swagger and effortless cool needed, and his cohorts were responsible for some of the best music of the time. During the era, there were a lot of minor acts and one-off gems that were bustling for attention, including Northern Uproar, The Boo Radleys and Black Grape- whom did not exactly leave permanent marks on music. When you think about some of the bands that can be classified as ‘Britpop’ artists, I am guessing many of them hold spots in your record collection. Ash and Cast were two bands doing battle during this time. Their heavier and more Rock-orientated sounds gained widespread praise and attention, and Ocean Colour Scene and Elastica were also jostling for attention. Between these bands, a great number of iconic songs were created, including The Riverboat Song and Uncle Pat– to my mind Ocean Colour Scene were the best band of that quartet. Their albums such as Ocean Colour Scene and Moseley Shoals were packed with wonders. I suppose there was a lot of short-lived triumph; a great number of acts whom were working away- yet never really poked their head to the summit. Before I focus on the two main players of ‘Britpop’ I will investigate one band. Supergrass is one of my favorite bands, are often overlooked when we look back at this period of music- I am not sure why. Their 1995 album I Should Coco, was one of the greatest albums of the mid-’90s (and the decade as a whole); songs like Alright, Caught by the Fuzz and Richard III will be familiar to most. I suppose Supergrass are synonymous with being laddish and good time purveyors. They may have shared more in common with shoegazing acts such as Kula Shaker (and Blur’s debut album); by 1994/5, the scene was perhaps favouring something less baggy and jocular- and something more Blur-y or Oasis-y. I am not sure, but it seems that Supergrass should have got more credit. Of course, they are regarded as one of the greatest British acts of the last twenty years, yet not a group anything things of when we look at ‘Britpop’. Okay, then, it is probably best that we investigate the two key players of the ‘Britpop’ movement: Blur and Oasis.

Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher are practical best buds. now, but the tension and rivalries that their bands shared from 1995, is one of the most striking and memorable aspects of ‘Britpop’. It seems that you either had to be a Blur man or an Oasis one. I was- and am- a Blur supporter through, and through. The two groups had their own style and sound. Oasis favoured a more Rock-driven sound, with elements of John Lennon, The Beatles, T-Rex and the like- or ‘real music’ as Gallagher stated. Blur, perhaps more melodic and Pop-driven, had touches of The Kinks in their music. Initially, both bands were respectful of one another, but with some media intervention and spurning, a rivalry and split occurred that saw them engage in fierce battle. To me, 1994 is the year that saew both bands produce their best work. Parklife (from Blur), is one of the defining discs of the era, and contained some of the greatest anthems from the time. Girls & Boys and Parklife are instant classics; This Is a Low and End of a Century terrifically evocative and scneic. Blur had concentrated on shoegazing and baggy sound during Leisure (their debut); and, after Albarn has visited America and got a whiff of the culture there, decide to retrain Blur’s focus. By the time Modern Life Is Rubbish arrived (in 1993), Albarn felt the need to comment on the American cultural influence and effect on music. Parklife took them further away from their past, and the sounds of the album were London, Essex and Britain- there were nods to the U.S. but is quintessentially a British album. Oasis, on the other hand, arrived later than Blur, and their debut came in 1994. Definitely Maybe was the confident and extraordinary debut that rivalled Parklife. The track Live Forever is regarded as one of the greatest songs of all-time; a track that emphasised the mood of the time. Supersonic and Cigarettes & Alcohol are classics that have their hearts very much with the legends of the ’60s and ’70s. I have always found Oasis to be TOO indebted to past masters. Riffs by T-Rex are stolen; vocals and melodies taken straight from John Lennon- there is not enough originality and individualism in their sound. That said, I recognise Definitely Maybe as the defining album of the ‘Britpop’ movement, because not only did it introduce a wild and ambitious new act, but also began a battle that came to a head in 1995. Oasis’ Roll With It was released on the same day as Blur’s Country House- Blur representing the south, Oasis the north. On 14th August, 1995, the nation awaited to see who would win the battle. Of course, Blur won, and some saw it as a victory for the artsy middle-class- as opposed to the honest working-class. It has nothing to do with class or a north-south divide; it was just numbers. The media fuelled the fire, but the fact was that the better song won. Even if Blur won the chart battle, Oasis won a bigger war. In 1995, Blur unleashed The Great Escape (where Country House originated). It is a terrific album, yet some see it is a departure from Parklife; a qualitative step-down perhaps. Charmless Man, Stereotypes and Fade Away were stand-outs, yet one could not ignore Oasis’ dominance. In spite of preferring Blur, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory boasted more emphasis and power. If Oasis had released a different single in August of 1995 they may have won the chart battle; the album is certainly one that pipped Blur. (What’s The Story)’ went on to sell four million copies (making it the third best-selling British album ever). The release of Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova, not only saw them overtake Blur- but also gain a sustained foothold in the U.S. The sounds and sparks from tracks invigorated and grabbed the public- it seems as though tastes were changing. Whereas Blur’s brand of intelligent and melodic Pop-Rock was favoured previously, the public now were favouring modern Rock- with a flair of 1960s elements. Starting on 10 August 1996, Oasis played a two-night set at Knebworth to a combined audience of 250,000 people. The demand for these gigs was and still is the largest ever for a concert on British soil; over 2.6 million people had applied for tickets. Blur would go on to release their self-titled L.P. in 1997; Oasis released Be Here Now (the same year). By then, both bands were a shadow of their 1994-5 selves it seemed; perhaps Blur were a little stronger, but it seemed like the best may have been left behind. The battle between Blur and Oasis, for me, was what made ‘Britpop’ so special. Each band pushed one another and forced a work ethic and ambition that we do not see much of now. There was a lot of pantomime and theatrics, but it was a joy to watch. You cannot deny that both bands produced mesmeric work, and each appealed to a different type of person. Blur may have been more ‘artsy’ and experimental; Oasis more straightforward and Rock-orientated. Each were presenting music that put Britain on the music map; reaffirmed the glory and wonder (that the U.S. perhaps had enjoyed before) and inspired a legion of fresh and hungry bands.


By 1996/7, a change began to occur- with the ‘Britpop’ movement beginning to break down. Bands and acts were seeing the world in a different way. In the same way as Grunge started for a reason, and broke down when it became unviable and tired- ‘Britpop’ went the same way. U.S. culture and music was being re-investigated and appreciated by musicians, and was being assimilated into the motifs of the modern acts. On Blur’s self-titled L.P., the band broke away from Parklife‘s sounds- the jollity and British scenes of life- to be more self-reflective and include influences of bands such as Pavement. Bands began to break up, and another shift was happening. The idea of ‘Cool Britania’ was now being moulded and appropriated by acts such as The Spice Girls, but a greater diversity was being introduced into the scenes. Bands such as Radiohead- whom had released The Bends in 1994- were now being given fuller attention. Radiohead had created some genuinely world-class moments during the ‘Britpop’ era, but attention was being shifted away from them- and onto the ‘cool’ bands of the time. By 1997, I guess the whole notion of ‘Britpop’ has started to die away. There were bands still purveying some of the spirit of the movement, yet the best had passed on. In 1997, Radiohead released OK Computer; acts such as The Verve were making big waves- each of whom presented influences from the ’60s and ’70s. The wave of music that followed on from ‘Britpop’ was not a million miles away from the likes of Pulp and Oasis. These acts were influential to the bands coming through, and Feeder, Stereophonics and Travis kept the flame alive- yet focused less on the London-centric and wholly British concentration. U.S. influences were being mixed with British ones, and there was a greater openness afoot. Gone were the days of concentrating on promoting a distinctly British brand of music (and way of life), and a more global and all-encompassing set of sounds were being projected. There was too, perhaps, less focus on English bands: more of the U.K. was being embraced. Welsh acts Stereophonics and Catatonia were rising through; Scots Travis and The Supernaturals threw their rings into the hat- whilst Northern Ireland’s Snow Patrol were starting out. It is clear that the bands that played and struck between 1993-1997 left their mark on the new generation coming through. Over the last few years, bands such as Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys have been seen as pioneers of the “second wave” of ‘Britpop’ acts- those whom invoke some of the spirit of Blur, Oasis and their contemporaries. Although amongst these bands there are fewer nods to the music of the 1960s and ’70s, there are Punk influences and strains of Hardcore music. I suppose that there are always going to be waves of music coming through- new genres and types year-by-year. At the moment, we have some groups that have a semblance of ‘Britpop’, yet by and large the scene is more varied and widespread. It will be interesting to see if- in our life times- we witness anything akin to ‘Britpop’ occur again.

I am a little ambivalent when I think about ‘Britpop’. It would be unrealistic to think that it would have lasted all the way to today. I guess it was a product of a time; there was a need to break out of the Grunge-led U.S. stranglehold- to assert some British identity into music. For that reason, it was no surprise that so many bands came out to play. The output from that time (’93-’97) saw an endemic of bristling and sun-kissed sounds; tableaux of British life and our way of living. You cannot deny that some of the best music we have ever witnessed, was created during this time. If you are a fan of Blur or Oasis; whether you prefer Suede or Pulp; The Bluetones or Supergrass- there was something for everyone. I love Blur because of the range of their music; because there are so many vast and multifarious snippets of British life; love lives and everything in between- Albarn, to me, remains one of the greatest ever songwriters. I cannot deny how vital Oasis were and how brilliant albums such as Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story Morning Glory)? are- I am listening to Champagne Supernova now. One off tracks such as Slight Return (by The Bluetones), Wide Open Space by Mansun- wow. It was not just the Oasis v. Blur histrionics that made it so exciting. There was a genuine passion and invigoration amongst musicians; keen to topple American-led dominance and Grunge-ness. As much as there was (media-led) divisions, the period- for me- is synonymous with togetherness. Each act and band were vying for top spot: the number 1 record and album spot. As much as there was commercial competitiveness, the overall scene was so wonderful because each band and act was trying to promote one cause- Britain. There was no sense of balkanization and compartmentalization; the overall sound was varied and strong because each of the acts wanted to promote ‘Britpop’. I am not saying music is weaker (now that the moment, as it were, has passed); far from it. My main reason for paying homage to ‘Britpop’ was that it signified a fervent period of music-making that has influenced so many great acts of today. There was a sense of national pride and defiance; a need to change the- U.S.- status quo: it was a rare phenomena. I hope that in the 21st century, something akin to ‘Britpop’ will be realised. Perhaps if mainstream Pop gets a bit too dominant, and too many teenage girls have too much money- we will need to rise up. Join the Rock and Grunge acts; the Acoustic-Pop and Folk artists in unison- and unleash something truly spectacular. We shall see; but for now, I challenge you to revisit the best and brightest from a time- 1993-1997- whom made their marks on music history. Dust off your copies of Definitely Maybe; spend an hour on YouTube sifting through the annals of Blur and Pulp’s career highs- and realise how good things were. I am sure, whether you are a musician or music-lover, you would have been influenced by some of the acts of ‘Britpop’. The British invasion celebrates its 20th birthday this year, and what better excuse than to celebrate a one-off and brilliant music time. It is unny; it is Sunday; it is warm- what better excuse do you need? I am rushing off to replay Champagne Supernova (for the 15th time today), so get right on it. Take heart, take inspiration and earn reflection. Above all, for all reading…

SMILE and remember when a truly magical time ruled our hearts.



Ten Essential ‘Britpop’ Tracks

Girls & Boys– Blur (Parklife, 1994)

Don’t Look Back In Anger– Oasis (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, 1995)

Parklife– Blur (Parklife, 1994)

Common People– Pulp (Different Class, 1995)

Slight Return– The Bluetones (Expecting To Fly, 1996)

Live Forever (Definitely Maybe, 1994).

Caught By The Fuzz– Supergrass (I Should Coco, 1995)

Disco 2000– Pulp (Different Class, 1995)

Wide Open Space– Mansun (Attack of the Grey Lantern, 1996)

A Design For Life– Manic Street Preachers (Everything Must Go, 1996)

Five Crucial Albums

Oasis- Definitely Maybe (1994)

Blur- Parklife (1994)

Oasis- (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)

Pulp- Different Class (1995)

Supergrass- I Should Coco (1995)

Feature- Relationship Status: “It’s Complicated”


Relationship Status:

“It’s Complicated”

THIS will be a short one, as it has been an odd last few days…

to be honest. I am back to music duties on Monday, yet have had a lot to reflect recently. This morning I started- and completed- a half-marathon. I was running on behalf of Cancer Research U.K.- a marvellous charity that is in need of as much money as possible. Members of my family are donating, and that money will be pledged to a local hospice. My uncle, Mark, died recently and was supported by the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. With his funeral taking place yesterday, it seemed appropriate timing that I was running today- but am sad that he did not live to hear about it. I won’t bore you with the ins-and-outs of the run itself, suffice it to say, it was the toughest physical endeavour I have undertaken. My legs are screaming; my feet blistered- and I am slumped against the wall as I type. In spite of all the (inevitable) results of a 14 mile run, I feel proud that I have done it. Making it to the end was the target, and did what I set out to do. Tonight, I will spend a few hours relaxing and reflecting, but something weighs heavy on my mind…

I will give special props. to Kate Hollowood and Adele Pierce. These two human beings are the ONLY people whom have donated to my cause. Outside of social media, I have had various contributions from family (and extended family), yet only two from anywhere else. I am deeply appreciative and thankful that these two lovely people have donated- if they hadn’t then it would have been embarrassed. I guess I am angry. There are quite a few people on Facebook and Twitter whom I have supported endlessly. Money has been pitched into their music ambitions; presents bought (when they needed a lift); projects and so forth have been endless shared and promoted. Many people have new connections because of me; some have made big strides in their personal lives as well as music careers. I always endeavour to give as much as I can to as many as I can- because that is the person I am. I do not expect anything in return (it would be nice now and then), but it seems pretty appalling when it comes to this. I was- and am- not raising money for me; if this were a Kickstarter campaign for my music I would still be infuriated. I ran for a worthy charity, to help beat a disease that killed my uncle- something that should be a no-brainer when thinking about donating. There are no excuses that can be levied out. I know people have bills to pay, but guess what: so does everyone. I am unemployed, spending money on others and in the midst of a lot of illness and uncertainty. I am forging ahead and keeping strong; focusing on my future firmly, yet am not exactly in a position when I can boast about my life. I cannot afford to move from home; I have not be on holiday for 13 years and cannot even afford to go out much- and yet I contribute!

This post is not meant as a rant; and I am acutely aware of the irony, in the sense that no one will read this. I feel I am always giving to so many people without question; without thinking about it- some people have received so much from me. All I asked was for a token sum of money for a brilliant cause that is set up to help eradicate an indiscriminate dictator. Thanks to Kate and Adele, and it is a huge shame that everyone else ignored my kind requests (and the firmer ones). I will be thinking a great deal about who I want to be associated with in future- deleting people from Facebook. There are a few people I will not get rid of regardless, yet quite a few I have reached the end of my tether with. In an age where it is axiomatic that we should give as much as possible to noble charities, it is a sad reflection that I have had to rally so hard and endlessly bang my head against a wall. I don’t care if people donate (now) because of guilt; because they feel like they are being forced into it- everyone is going to be in a position (some day) where cancer affects their lives. Every charity post that comes from my online ‘friends’ I do my best to kick in; same goes with Kickstarter and any other donation. I buy music, show support and never think twice. I can only imagine that the lack of donations coming through, is because of selfishness and a lack of caring. I have been very depressed and saddened seeing the total I have raised (£70 so far) and actually am glad my uncle is not around to see it- I would hope to be in triple figures after nearly three months of setting up my Just Giving page.

Anyway, as I have stated, anyone I feel SHOULD have donated will no longer be in my life come next week- why should I give so much when they cannot be bothered to help? Most people urge me to make music and record as soon as possible, and I wonder what would be the point; I would be surprised if anyone actually bothered to listen to it. I guess it is a rant, but a justified one; I am just annoyed that other people’s friends donate to their charity causes, yet when it comes to my online contacts, the purses and wallets are empty. In spite of the anger and annoyance I am feeling, I am proud of myself for running. The money raised for some very lovely people will help and I am sure that my aunt will be pleased to hear of my day.

In a general sense, I am just imploring people to be more thoughtful and less selfish. I will not stop donating and expending effort ensuring that I assist my friends, but it is imperative that things change. I don’t care what your financial situation is at the moment- if you can afford to get pissed or to throw money away, you can afford to donate a few pounds to causes like mine. As stated, most people will probably not see this; those whom are culpable will not amend their ways, so it seems a bit lacking- I just needed to get it off my chest. On a day where I have pushed myself harder than ever, I would like to think that it is not entirely in vain. So, if you have even a quid going spare…

PUT it my way!




Track Review- Kongos: Come With Me Now







Come With Me Now



The track, Come With Me Now is available from:


The album, Lunatic is available at:



Arizonan fraternity turn loose a staccato whip of uplifting abandon. With some intriguing lineage and a variegated musical D.N.A., the quartet are unlike anything about. A certain critic in The Guardian was a bit ambivalent (towards their music): I’ll show him how it should be done…


IT appears that a lot of the genuine fun seems to have escaped certain…

bands, lately. The sound and sensations that stand you to attention- or else make you smile- is in short supply. I was publicly (or perhaps privately; I should keep a tab on these things!), the demise of one of the U.K.’s finest bands (of the past 15 years), The Libertines. The ’90s was synonymous with bonhomie and adventurousness; music which offered something fresh, invigorating and compelling. As the following decade unveiled, the afterglow seemed short-lived. Some great Dance music was being produced, and certain acts still had a lot of punch and energy left in them; it just felt that, for everyone else, a good lie down was in order. The quality dropped and the wanderlust that was so prescient (in the ’90s), dissipated. It became so bad, that for the first few years of the ’00s, I was still listening to the music of the mid-late ’90s- keen to keep the memory of the decade alive. The past decade was not a complete downer, yet it seemed such a disappointment, when we consider exactly what the 1990s gave to us. It was not just the diversity and surprise that had disappeared from the music; the subject and nature of fun and joy had been sucked dry. When The Libertines arrived on the scene as early as 1997, formed by Carl Barat and Pete Doherty. Although their rise to prominence was slow and unspectacular, by the time their debut, Up The Bracket, was unleashed (in 2002), few ears could ignore them. Polls and magazines placed the album at the top of their ‘Albums of the Year’ lists; many went even further, proclaiming it one of the finest albums of the decade- the effect was staggering. It is no surprise that the L.P. whipped up such a firestorm of praise. The songwriting was uniformly intelligent, authoritative and nuanced; the songs looked at modern-life; the sights and characters of the London streets- wrapped up in wit, venom and traversed morality. As much as the tracks were the work of two phenomenal songwriters, it was the sheer bonhomie and delight that was offered up, that sticks with you. Carl and Pete had- and I suspect still do- have a fraternal bond; one which dates back to their first encounter. Through the pubs and clubs of Kent and London, the duo formed a closeness and sympatico that enforced their tracks. The tracks (on their debut) are not just wonderful because of their quality; it is the fun and delight that is summoned up, which remains in your brain. Boys In The Band is a look at the hangers-on and the groupies; the girls who love the feel “of the limo wheel“; the title tracks has a swirling and dizzying series of riffs as well a brilliant vocal display (especially from Pete). Allmusic said (of the album): “… virtually every song on Up The Bracket is chock-full of the same kind of bouncy, aggressive guitars, expressive, economic drums, and irresistible hooks that made The Strokes’ debut almost too catchy for the band’s credibility“. My favourite songs on the disc- The Boy Looked at Johnny and Begging– had a rambunctious charm; poetic and sharp lyrics- and great sing-alongs and duetting between the two songwriters. Skipping over the tales of heroin abuse, fights and Rock cliché; The Libertines’ follow-up- their self-titled L.P.- picked up where Up The Bracket left off. The quality barometer may have been quivering around the 9.8 mark (rather than a full 11); yet the spirit and determination cannot be faulted. Perhaps there was more introspection and self-analysis, yet the excitement and blood-and-sweat comradery was alll in tact. Listen to tracks such as Narcissist and What Katie DId, and you can hear the sly smiles and cigarette chomping delight, when our authors shame and investigate their subjects. Even the brothers-in-arms tableaux and fractured sermons of Can’t Stand Me Now and Road To Ruin had joy amongst the tears and teeth. The guitar work and percussion was hard, pulsating and hugely evocative; the vocals authoritative and emotional- the lyrics filled with vivid scenes and tormented dreams. Even in the most dark and reflective moments from The Libertines, there was excitement and tantalization. It was a hell of a shame that the band broke up; that Pete broke them- who knows what could have become of The Likely Lads? The balls-the-wall thrash of Mayday are reminder of a band that could have gone anywhere; done anything- such was their invincible potential. To my mind, the last ten years of music has been poorer for not having The Libertines in it. They- in my head- are the last band who truly defined something special; something by-gone, perhaps: Rock at its purest and most splendid.

When tuning my radar to the modern-day bands, I am always seeking out a semblance and essence of Doherty and Barat’s crew- something that puts me in mind of their halcyon moments. Before I introduce you to Kongos, I find myself presented with music from the U.S. Most of my investigations look at U.K.-based talent and focus upon home-grown talent. It is nice when happening upon foreign artists, as it gives me a chance to hear what is happening in various other locales of the music landscape. My featured act hail from Arizona- The Grand Canyon State– and more especially, its capital, Phoenix. Arizona is noted for its diverse landscape; half of the state is desert land and half forest and woodland. The state is one of the most populous of the U.S. and notable for its hot climate and stunning scenery. Amongst the San Francisco Mountain Ranges, heavy snowfall is recorded, and it seems Arizona is a land of contrast and beauty. Spanish is the natural second language amongst its citizens, and because of its proximity to Mexico (as well as attractions such as The Grand Canyon) is a mecca and hotspot for travellers and tourists. Phoenix is divided into 15 urban villages, and each village has a balance of unique identity and sustained focus on employment and housing. Amidst the humid and arid climate, mountain lions and giant saguaro are synonymous with Phoenix’s 1.5 million-or-so inhabitants. There is a large Hispanic community in the city, and a thriving arts scene; diversity and culture are hallmarks of a grand city, and it clearly invigorates creative minds. The Cardinals, Diamonbacks and Coyotes play out of Phoenix, and the atmosphere and commonality of the city is varied and enlivened. In terms of the musical output of Arizona, the likes of Run Boy Run and What Laura Said are names that will be familiar to most of us very soon, and the state is giving life to some fresh and exciting new acts. A massive musical diversity lurks within Arizona: everything from Electro-Pop to Nick Drake-esque Acoustic Folk is offered up. Our boys, Kongos, are one of trhe most urgent and memorable bands that are coming out of the U.S. Beofe I get into more in-depth biography, the band want to clear something up (about their name): “Pronounced “KONGOS” – KONGOS is spelled like this: ” K” for Cool, “O” for Awesome, “N” for Knowledge, “G” for Jenius, “O” for Artistic, “S” for speling. There’s no “The” in KONGOS. There is however a “the” in “THEre.” It’s not KONGO’s, it’s not Congos, congas, kongus, kongas, or Jeff. No relation to Cheick Kongo, the conga drum, the Kongo people of Africa, Donkey Kong, Kongos Norman, Kongos pizza, Kongos Club in Oklahoma, twitter.com/kongos, Kat Kongos, Lasse Kongos, the japanese class of battleship or Kevin Bacon“. Our quartet consist of Dylan Kongos (bass, vocals), Daniel Kongos (guitar, vocals), Jesse Kongos (drums, percussion, vocals) and Johnny Kongos (accordion, keyboard, vocals). The band have quite a fascinating backstory. The brothers spent time between London and South Africa (in their childhood) and are the sons of John Kongos- the Johannesburg-born singer-songwriter best known for his 1971 Top 10 single, He’s Gonna Step On You Again. Our heroes are of Greek origin, and have a varied and mixed D.N.A. Because of their itenirant and scenic childhoods, our boys have picked up various influences and cultures; sounds and sensations- all of which they blend into their toe-stomping mandates. The Kongos lads have a varied set of influences. On their Facebook page, they provide a list: “The Beatles, Tinariwen, Erik Satie, John Kongos, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Bach, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Salif Keita, Joni Mitchell, Faithless, Dire Straits, Jimmy Giuffre, Coldplay, The Prodigy, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pink Floyd, Arvo Part, Bob Marley, Puccini, The Police, Chopin, Tin Hat Trio, J.J. Cale, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, South Africa … the list goes on“. The Guardian have just recently featured our heroes, and- as well as being a little lukewarm towards them- had this to say: “Our American “cousins” have already submitted – and it’s a good fact, this – because Kongos’ thumpy stomp-fest Come With Me Now is either, depending on which hysterical source you believe, the fastest-rising single to the top of the US Billboard Alternative Songs chart since Lorde’s Royals, the fastest-ascending No 1 since Evanescence’s Bring Me to Life in 2003, or simply the fastest climber to the top of said chart by a new band, ever, in human history“. In late October 2013, the band self-released Lunatic in the United States. In 2014, both I’m Only Joking and Come With Me Now began receiving noticeable exposure in the United States, gaining momentum in airplay on radio and being featured in television commercials there. As a result, the band was signed by Epic Records in late January 2014 and the band re-released Lunatic. Come with Me Now has sold more than 70,000 copies as of March 2014. I shall investigate that song in more depth, anon, yet let me reveal what some critics have had to say about our subjects:

It’s rare to be in on the ground floor of something that doesn’t sound like anything else you might’ve heard before
Serene Dominic • Phoenix New Times

KONGOS produces a refreshing, captivating rock-tribal like vibe that will leave you absolutely charmed out of your mind!
Lana Oosthuisen • SA Music Zone

As well as the incontestable youthful talent, what impresses even more is the controlled emotional outpourings …
Jonathan Leonard • Leonard’s Lair

Each song has so much attention to the groove that it sounds like another level of music has been reached that other people haven’t quite made it to. GREAT record!
Murphy • Undiscovered Radio Network

Kongos are bound to make it big. Their songs are radio-ready and they have a frickin’ kickin’ accordian!
Tim Wardyn • Music-Critic.com

This band have built a burgeoning reputation recently and it’s easy to see why here. The album bristles with intelligently written soulful pop-rock …
Haydon S. • The-Mag.co.uk

Kongos sounds like no other band, not just in the Valley, but in the whole of mainstream rock music …
Chris Hansen Orf • Get Out

KONGOS use a combination of classic rock elements, African rhythms and Balkan beats to produce an eargasmic soundscape.
Sindy Peters • BizCommunity

The four sons of UK rock legend John Kongos have recorded an amazing album in the finest spirit of their father’s 1971 Kongos classic
Robert Silverstein • 20th Century Guitar

What separates this band are the overtones of electronic mixes, accordion solos, and African-inspired beats that make this band stand out amongst your typical ‘rock band.’
Kim Milbrandt • Copperstate Music

… samples, thick dance beats, or accordions, Kongos is sure to surprise the hell out of you.
J-Sin • Smother Magazine

… there’s a lot more going on than you first realise … Definitely a grower is this one … I think it’s more ‘Sunday music’ than ‘Friday night’ music, if you catch my drift.
The Beat Surrender

Immortality and world domination may be future considerations, but for the moment the quartet and basking in critical acclaim and seeing where their music takes them. I hope that they come to London (and the U.K.) soon, as their brand of delirious and electric song is just what we need. I opened by mentioning The Libertines; it seems that Kongos have a comparable sense of abandon and joyousness- they drape their songs with smiles, winks and gleeful-ness. If our sadly defunct U.K. heroes concentrated on some of the more destructive elements of life, the Phoenix sons have a more positive and impassioned flair for the lighter side of things. America has been intoxicated and seduced by our heroes, and I hope that they hit the road very soon- and go see the world. I know that the likes of Europe, Australia and Asia will have many hungry ears waiting; and I am confident that Lunatic is just the kind of album that can provide inspiration to tired musicians. There is some merriment and genuine exhilaration amongst some of the U.K.’s best bands, yet nothing quite like Kongos offer. Without further ado, let us get into majesties of Come With Me Now

The opening accordion sways instantly put me in mind of Paul Simon’s Graceland work; particularly The Boy In The Bubble. The first few seconds put your mind to mid-’80s Simon; to Africa and the sounds and wonders that the Graceland album provided. Before your mind prepared for Ladysmith Black Mambazo or the soft croon of music legend, a heartbeat percussion; a tempestuous thud enters the fray; sending the electricity up and building the steady momentum. When accordion and percussion commingle with subtle guitar, the effect is quite heady. An elliptical and catchy coda snakes its way into your brain, and involuntary foot-tapping and head-nodding are ordered up. Within the first 30 seconds, a perfect distillation of the band’s potency has been presented; when the vocals arrive, the pace and strike does not let up. The chorus is first up, our boys in unison voice, imploring and celebrating its words: “Come with me now/I’m gonna take you down/Come with me now/I’m gonna show you how”. The direct (and slightly distorted) vocal of our frontman stands on its own in the first verse; laying in sentiments and tapestries of anxiety, fears and inner-visions:Afraid to lose control/And caught up in this world/I’ve wasted time, I’ve wasted breath/I think I’ve thought myself to death“. In the way that there is part rapid-pace (vocal) delivery; part sonic foot-stomp, the breathless energy of the song catches you up; our hero spitting his words, backed by a subtle yet evocative beat. When the words “I was born without this fear/Now only this seems clear/I need to move, I need to fight/I need to lose myself tonight” are offered, you can sense the conviction in our hero’s voice. Come With Me Now, is, apparently, the fastest-rising single to the top of the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs chart since Lorde’s Royals. Its catapult and fast ascendancy is justifiable when the chorus swings back around- with the boys in full voice amidst the potent stomp. The music video is a mixture of black-and-white images; band performance and various intriguing characters; the scenes both blend with the music, and seem cutely anachronistic and detached. A man twists and plays with his schoolboy cap as he gazes into a mirror; a blonde woman blow-drys her hair whilst looking on vacantly- another woman writhes and swims underwater (in black-and-white) in time to the beat. The chorus comes back for a mere moment, and before you can get up and weave in a merry hoedown, another verse is before of. Our frontman is in reflective and retrospective mood as he states that “(I) think with my heart and I move with my head/I open my mouth and it’s something I’ve read/I stood at this door before, I’m told/But a part of me knows that I’m growing too old“. My eyes are drawn to the video, still; by this stage our hatted fellow is munching a corncob pipe; frantically flicking the pages of a book, whilst looking to camera. The vocal apportionment once again switches from lone to multiple, as our hero is in cryptic mood. Oblique and ambiguity mix with vivid and personal (“Confused what I thought with something I felt/Confuse what I feel with something that’s real/I tried to sell my soul last night/Funny, he wouldn’t even take a bite“) as your mind begins to wonder. The lyrics are well-considered and original, yet it is unsure what they may be referring to. The video gives us images of a businessman riffling money (juxtaposed with a scantily clad woman on an exercise bicycle); so there may be a sense of corporate sell-out; some personal doubts about love and life- or something altogether different. Our frontman has a little of Matt Bellamy’s tenor force, as well as Chris Martin falsetto and Rufus Wainwright operatic swell as he is being called forth: “Far away/I heard him say (come with me now)/Don’t delay/I heard him say (come with me now)“. There is perhaps, too, a bit of U2’s muted Strum und Drang when the lines are delivered; you get sucked into the parable before, once more, the chorus is pistol-whipped into your consciousness. Funky guitar and Blues-style licks parabond and spar, as an insatiable musical parable rains down. If the gates of Hell have been reached; or the depth of absolution purged, then the band go to lengths to aurally represent the closed-captions. The song- now- implores you to get up and dance; advises a sense of recklessness and drunken haze as the harpsichord once more returns. Perhaps my comparisons with The Boy In The Bubble were premature and rash; Paul Simon never penned anything quite so insanely catchy and dance-able. My mind is still drawn to the video, as (in black-and-white) an alluring and captivating figure floats underwater (longingly looking to camera); this is interspersed with restless shots of the band performing the track- there is no let-up on the dizzying contradictions and mismatched visions. As the song’s final words are punctuated firmly, (in the video) our stock characters and players are reintroduced again- almost as a curtain call or cliff-hanger. The final 30-or-so seconds are a riotous blend of a aural assault and get-up-and-throw-your-arms-in-the-air-rebellion. Languid and drawling guitar lines trade with scattershot and pitter-patter percussive notations; with a snippet of the chorus coming back into view, the song ends. Whether you are in the middle of a sing-along or a bop, you wish that the song would give you another minute or so- such is the effect of a great song, that it leaves you wanting more.

Having examined most of the progeny from Lunatic, it is not hard to see why the L.P. received the adulation it did. The songs are varied and from Kids These Days’ purveyance of modern infancy (“Oh kids these days/They don’t have respect/They just talk on those cellphones/And listen to their tape cassettes); through to It’s A Good Life’s tale of suburban strain and vicissitudes where (you) “Spend half your life waiting for that light to change/Just so you can make ends meet/Everybody always looking for a fight it’s insane/And now you need a pill just to get some sleep“- there is a lot to digest. Each track offers a sonic blast and varied palette; and by the time I reached Traveling On‘s opening line (“So long my friend, my foe, my love, my pain), I was hooked and cast asunder. I know that a certain Guardian writer has been a little anxious when doling out positivity towards the band- earnest and glowing positivity at least. Perhaps it is the changeable weather or the pressures of a media job that have caused him to be a little bit distant, but Kongos will be getting plenty of attention from our shores, very soon. The bands that we have in Britain are filled with range and sounds to suit everybody, but too much seriousness and impersiousness enforce their sounds. Some groups I have reviewed such as Issimo, Crystal Seagulls and Los and the Deadlines present some themes of optimism (amongst the anger or heartbreak), yet none unleash such a manic and infectious merry-go-round of song. Like contemporaries such as Kings of Leon, the guys have plenty of Rock grit, guitar magic and solid anthems; but the way they vocalise them sets them apart from Tennessee colleagues. The Phoenix lads have a bucket-load of alacrity and energy, and this is emphasised in Come With Me Now. It is ready-made for spring and summer, yet has a  charm that is going to be hard to shake. I hope that- when their music fully goes global- others will take their example to heart, and instil notes and essences of Kongos into their overall sound. Music is- and should be- designed to summon up happiness and redemption; allow release and escape. If the music you are playing is too dour or angry, then it is unlikely that a transcendent or all-encompassing listening experience will occur. Ditch the dark glasses and she-said-he-said histrionics and loosen up a bit. The U.S. quartet has shown what can happen if you are brave enough operate differently, and with greatly intuitiveness. U.S.A. Today ran a feature piece on the brothers under a week ago; where they had this to say:Now with Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night With Seth Meyers performances under its belt, the group is reigning at No. 1 on USA TODAY’s alternative airplay chart with Come With Me Now and gearing up to play Lollapalooza, Firefly, Sasquatch! and Summerfest in the months ahead. “It’s definitely really cool that it’s getting some recognition,” says Jesse of the album. “Emotionally, we’re almost ready to move on to new songs, but we definitely don’t want to stunt anything that’s happening now.” With regards to Lunatic (and the struggle for recognition in the U.S.) Dylan had this to say: “The States is especially difficult for radio because it’s so huge and there’s so many different formats…Here, the only way to reach the whole country in a small way is Sirius (satellite radio); otherwise, you’re regional.” When the band were pressed about touring, and how they find the (possible) rigours of the road, Jesse had this to say: “With each city we start getting (airplay) in, it’s like a mini-breakthrough because then we can go on tour and actually sell tickets“. It seems that as much as the music, it is the bond between the four that keeps the band solid- and ensures that they will have a long and prosperous future. Whereas contemporary brother-only acts like King of Leon have as much in common with fights and rehab (as they do each other), it is nice to know that Kongos have no interest in that: “It’s much harder to break up with your brothers… We grew up together, we know each other’s faults, so we have a much tighter bond already. And although we each have our own individual tastes and style, we come together a lot on the creative aspects of the band. Walking out on that stage and hearing a stadium shouting (for us), it’s hard to top that” (so Jesse testifies). It seems that the guys have transcending from playing small and intimate gigs- right to near-superstardom. It is early days for the guys (still), yet it is impressive how far they have come; how many people they have won over with their music. Johnny states that the smallest audience (the band) played, was a sole bartender at a strip club-turned-pool hall in San Diego: “They kept the poles and they kept the name, but there were no strippers…Well, at least that we saw.” The days of playing seedy pool halls may be in the past, as the Phoenix quartet are preparing for the big time. The varying and diverse crowds of the U.S. have already been treated to, and appreciative of, the sounds and sparks that Kongos have tempted up. I am sure that a future album and singles will be in their mind, and the momentum they garnered from Lunatic would have spiked something. Before long, we will be anticipating something fresh and new from the boys, but for now, take a listen to the current flavours of a band daring to be different. I know that the four-piece have spent a lot of time in London; so would be nice to think that the boys can come visit their old friends and say ‘hi’. If the buzz and fever that the U.S. audiences are providing ever gets a bit too much, it would be nice to think they may…

DROP down our way.



Follow Kongos:













Tour Dates:


Feature: “Living The Dream”- The Musical ‘Yellow Brick Road’.



“Living The Dream”:

The Musical ‘Yellow Brick Road’.


Many ambitious (new) musicians set their sights incredibly high- in order to fulfil their dreams. Ultimate self-fulfilment requires a lot of determination, luck and talent: only the most thoughtful need apply.


I am going to start today’s outing by mentioning me

Yep: my least favourite subject. Well, it is with regards to proclaiming personal ambition and intentions- as I am always self-conscious and nervous that I will not be able to fulfil my words. For that reason, I shall make it brief (in this paragraph). I have been compelled to write this blog entry for two reasons. The first is, that (because I normally write over the weekend), I will be incapacitated on Saturday. As I am running a half-marathon, I will be exhausted and potentially dead, so am getting this off my chest- whilst I can! The most important reason I am writing this, is because I have been thinking a lot about new music- just how much it takes to ‘make it’ in the music world. Quite frankly, the process and obstacles involved (with regards to becoming successful) are hugely intimidating. I have titled this blog as such, as it seems that the key components one needs to achieve musical success is the following: brains, courage and a heart. I will not be as pious or pretentious to say I am taking you on a ‘journey’ or such- yet I have been keen to examine just what is required for success in the music industry. There have been a great deal of new musicians I have reviewed; each of whom are making big strides towards their goals (I shall mention them later); each time I witness a sapling act thinking big, it makes me smile. It is impressive and commendable when someone breaks away from ‘normal life’ in the pursuit of grand ambitions and higher plains. I am not down on the 9-5 mentality of those whom participate in it; yet those that have a talent that supersede this, should make every effort to fulfil it. Too many people become ‘settled in’ and afraid of life: if they make a bold move they fear losing everything. I know people (non-musicians) whom have ambitious plans of working within the arts- acting, photography etc.; each of them have their detractors, cynics and nay-sayers- none of them let them in, and are determined to prove them all wrong. People that do not have that flame; that mind-set and flair in life; the tenacity to ensure that they are not just another boring ‘normal person’- often come across those whom do not believe in them. It is a huge shame, but that is the way people are. Very few encourage ambition and a different way of life; if you are perceived as being different and ‘out of the norm’ then noses are turned up and backs turn; but you know what- who gives a crap about them? Being special and unique in life is something to strive towards and be proud of- those whom do not understand this are not worth the trouble. I am not someone writing just for the sake of ranting, but people are getting on my mind. I shall explain in more depth…

I shall not linger to much at the shores of ‘me’, but will aptly find myself in a new position. There came a point a while ago where I decided that life alone; the detrimental job; living in an area that I hate and feel imprisoned in; being angry and miserable with life- enough was enough. The first stage of the Living The Dream Coefficient involved ditching my (migraine-inducing) job: done. As I write I am somewhere between Stage 2 and 3: finding a new job and moving to London. Of course, I have to find myself a regular (and liveable) job, in order to sustain the funds to live/make music/everything else. My mind is set to London, and am seeking a flat share or place that I can call home- somewhere modest but in a nice area. Figuring this transition goes smoothly (enough), then the following few phases can take effect. When you are in city like London, not only does it make it easier to find potential band members/recording facilities (it is one of the busiest areas for new music/music in general); your mind and body start to relax. I have always hated when I am because it is just plain noisy. Too many rude people; too much screeching and infantile wailing: no conversation or any sort of restraint. The people are not overly-considerate or polite; everyone is happy to be just like everyone else: there is no ambition or desire to be special or daring in life. Because of this (and some factors I can’t censor for the sake of this blog) London seems like a natural home. It gets a bad rap, as people consider it to be too busy and polluted. It is, but the people are that much more relatable; there is ambition and desire here; chances to better yourself- one can alight oneself in a coffee shop and be subjected to conversation and not screeching children. Above all, people get you. No one turns their nose up when you say you want to be a musician (or actor): that is why the city is the place to be. I have been writing songs since I was 18, and consider myself to be pretty good. People whom have read my lyrics and ideas seem impressed, and encouragement has been levied from various corners. I suppose most are familiar with my various writings; yet it is the vocal side of things I am most proud of. When I can obtain recording equipment that doesn’t have the quality of a 1980s Dictaphone, I shall record something; but I feel that when getting into London, I will have opportunities to do this. I am a 30-year-old Dorothy; red shoes on, in Kansas. This town smells odd and a hurricane is coming. I have my songbook with 9 tracks; I have the album and band name all figured; all the designs and covers; the song ideas and direction figured out- just need the four other people whom can help me out. It is a scary time- like being back at school- and I am determined yet a little scared. If things do not work out, then I am back to Square One: having to repeat stages of a bad existence. Every time I hear a favourite song or music strikes me, the fear goes away. I get writing, my brain spikes, and I imagine a time where my scribbled words will be fully-realised songs and sketches. Music- like any artistic profession- is a hard bitch to crack. You cannot just interview for something; get the job and have a successful and assured tenure. Luck is required, as well as a great deal of hard work and fight. For anyone reading (that has similar ambitions) or anybody looking for a bit of a kick; then have no fear. The route to satisfaction is one blocked by hostile weather, busy traffic and bumps; yet when you actually start pounding it, it doesn’t seem so bad. That said- and as I prepare to charge towards a blinding light- I have been examining what is needed in order to ‘live the dream’; to ‘make it’- as it were.

One of the most striking- and constant- pains when creating and planning music, is the cost. It is perhaps an obvious one, but something that can take many (musicians) by surprise. That is not to say that those whom have a lot of money will be able to make music and gain success in no time; it just means that for every musician starting out, there is a imperious obstacle. For me, it seems to be one of the most alarming and daunting aspects of music. Having words for months in a previous job; saved as much as possible in order to make music, yet I find myself thinking: is it going to be enough? Even a ‘basic’ song (I tend to not write too many of these) will take a pretty penny to get it recorded and out in the ether- and I feel that I don’t have enough to do that. Of course, the likes of YouTube and SoundCloud have meant that there are portals and avenues one can publish music- without having to give it the full studio treatment. I shall go into more depth about this side of things, but if one wants to commit a fully-realised track onto tape, then the considerations are vast. As well as studio time, you have rehearsals; production etc.- it can be quite worrying. I think this puts some musicians off; the feeling that in order to do what they want to do, they will always be in debt; or else have to work endless jobs. It is something that presses on my mind, and am acutely aware that I will have to do a lot of things (work) that I don’t want to- in order to make a music career a reality. It is something one has to do, yet there are other avenues. Friends and contacts I have reviewed have always had the determination; money has always been an issue for them- yet they manage to overcome this. Most work a few jobs and save as hard as possible, but sites such as Kickstarter give (new musicians) an alternate choice. Crowd-funding websites such as Kickstarter allow the (music-buying) public an opportunity to provide the necessary funds in order to realise a musician’s visions- and get rewards in return. Artists such as Chess used this method (when raising funds for her Tuxedo E.P.) and means that the listener and fan can connect with the artist- as well as be rewarded for it. There are some whom may say it is not an honest way to raise money, but think of it- you know how much it costs to produce an E.P.? Assuming the three or four songs on the collection were ‘straight forward’ (no orchestration; few other musicians; few sonic proclivities) the cost can be bracing. Artists such as Chess and Elena Ramona have friends whom are producers- meaning they can cut these costs- yet the bar bill is still daunting. The advice I would offer to up-and-coming musicians (as well as myself) is this: use all channels. Having around a few hundred pounds in the bank, costs such as rent and travel are going to suck that up pretty quick- leaving scant little for music. Work a few part-time jobs and ensure that you put a little aside, as often as possible. Use crowd-funding sites too; it means that you can raise the necessary funds, as well as allow the people whom will buy your music, direct access into the recording process. I guess my abiding point is that sacrifices have to be made; for those like me whom have little/no money, a lot of back-breaking will need to take place. As soon as I get the band and ideas ready for recording, I will be using Kickstarter– as well as doing as much part-time work as possible. However you go about getting the money together remember two elemental points: do not scrimp on real-life, and do not stress. You need enough money to be able to eat and pay bills; scrimping on them will cause you a hell of an issue. Also, take time and breathe. You can still play and record music without needing to step into a studio. Playing, honing and rehearsing are all necessary and enriching, so there shouldn’t be an instant levitation towards a studio. That said, money and finance is the biggest consideration- as well as stumbling block- you can face. For those with ambitions and a huge hunger for success, it can frustrating indeed.

It is all well having your funds together; your recording schedule set up- everything planned as it were. In order to grab the public and transcend your music from pen and paper to reality; through to admiring sighs you need this: talent. Too many Pop moppets have cut an L.P., filled it with covers (or committee-written tracks) and assumed that would be that. I have reviewed too many bands and acts that are so copy-catting and unoriginal that I cannot see them make it to album number 2. Too many musicians get in such a hurry to record and put their sounds out there, that they assume this: there will be a market for me, no matter what. Possibly true, statistically, yet if you want success and a loyal and large audience, then you need to remember: be original and have the talent to back it up. They may sound like obvious points, yet it is a lot harder than you may imagine. When I write, lyrically I find myself in original and personal territory; same goes for the music- it is the vocals that trip me up. This facet of music is the most culpable when it comes to new musicians and lack of originality. If you grow up listening to particular singers and bands, then there is a natural temptation to emulate them. Most translate this into direct mimicking. If I had a pound for every time I heard a critics say “This guy/girl in the next…” and say it with no hyperbole or exaggeration, then, well… I wouldn’t be here writing this now. It is great to have shades of this; fusions of them; smidges of so-and-so: just don’t rip someone off. I have surveyed bands whom ape the Arctic Monkeys; solo acts that copycat Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley; too many whom just replicate their favourite artist. Even though their words and music may be their own; it is only two-thirds of the music. The problem arising (when you copycat someone) is that your future will be limited. The person many aspire to be are the originators; they will never be bettered- at the very least you will be a facsimile, and who the hell wants to hear that? As I say, you do not have to neglect every influence to be original and striking- far from it. The reality show festivities have convinced us that the way to success is to be a third-rate Mariah Carey or Prince: bullshit. Your own voice is the way through. Let me give you me as an example. I am listening to, at the moment, Steely Dan, Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley; Michael Jackson and Queens of the Stone Age (not all at once). There is diversity and range amongst these artists; huge vocal acrobatics as well as hard-edged Rock directness; Jazz fusions and heart-breaking falsetto. In terms of the music alone there is sonic diversity, yet when you think of the vocals too, hardly any overlap. Extend it further and by incorporating a fraction of these artists’ vocals into your own; not only do you have new and different sounds- yet something new comes to the fore. It is about expanding your horizons and being bold; keeping your own voice in tact, yet adding range, emotional colour and difference. Too many people seem beholden to see themselves as the next Led Zeppelin/Michael Jackson or whomever, that they forget the cardinal rule: that is not who you will ever be. If you- like me- seem a little bit too indebted to past masters (and not to your own voice) then have no fear: you can do both and fulfil the point I am making. Of course, you also need the talent to back up the ‘vocal originality’ or individuality. If you have all the unique vocalisations in place, the accompanying tracks need to be strong. If you are a solo act, then not only does the voice have to be original or unique enough, but your tracks have to be solid. Words and lyrics need to be varied, personal and striking. It is no good employ lazy poetry and verbose bloating- nor do you have to be Bob Dylan. In terms of lyrics; write about personal experience; do not stick to writing about love alone; make sure your palette is varied but captivating. Music-wise, ensure that there is emotion, range and interest throughout, but above all: take your time. Too many rush in and assume that their first instinct is good enough. Talent is not necessarily born-in and natural; sometimes hard work and consideration augment what was there to start with. Being braver; by thinking differently and pushing yourself- that is the way to get peoples attentions; and ensure that you keep them primed towards you.

Social media and luck can count as much towards success and establishment, as much as anything. By ‘luck’ I do not mean that you need to be in the right place at the right time; just simply that contacts and who you know can be important. I have met many ‘online friends’ and made connections with musicians by sheer dumb chance. As the music is one of the most overcrowded and vast sectors of the entertainment industry, sometimes talent and intention will not do all of the work. Some great talent has been overlooked because they have been compressed amongst hungry contemporaries; inferior acts have been heralded for no reason. My point is that the best will be overlooked- far from it- simply, that occasionally that is the way things do. For those whom have all the ammunition and are great and ambitious, then they should not worry: their rewards will come. This point dovetails into another important consideration and marketing tool: social media. It is tantamount to suicide, when a new music act simply neglects its power. I hate the way social media has become about personal vanity and shallowness; yet when it comes to music, it is invaluable. The only way I have found my review subjects and sought out some great music, is because of it. I will mention a few examples of the kind of acts that have understood its importance. We have SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook; YouTube, Reverb Nation and BandCamp: they all out there waiting. Too many just stick with Facebook and SoundCloud, which is all well and good, but social media is compartmentalised and- sadly- balkanised. Twitter peeps do not necessarily check Facebook- you need to go wide and far. A personal website, too, can add followers to your camp. If you have this as a central hub and tie in all the other social media/music-sharing sites to it, then you give yourself the best fighting chance. It is not just about the availability that matters, but also information. Being mysterious is good if you are an M15 spy, but not o good if you are a musician. A detailed biography, some reviews; the music itself; tour dates should all be in there. When I- as well as any music-lover- go to investigate an act, it is always great when this info. is there. It can be time-consuming creating a website, but the importance cannot be underestimated. Before I get onto investigating some acts whom are leading the way; backing up my points, and providing inspiration to the up-and-comers; I want to bring up one more point…

Extending the whole social media theme, contacts and friends can be a much-needed source of connection. On Facebook, for instance, I have made friends whom have not only helped foster my music ambitions, but made a great difference in my personal life. If you are a solo artists or in a band, you should never try to do things alone. You do not have to transfer the full artistic weight onto their shoulders, yet allowing them in and helping them to help you, can mean that there is less stress and anxieties on your mind- ensuring that you can dedicate more time and effort into music itself. I have online friends and contacts whom have provided advice, contacts and insight- all of which have helped me and provided direction. In the same way as friends can provide career advice and personal confidence, there is always going to be (one of your friends at least) whom can assist when it comes to music. In my travels, I have connected with a record company boss; many new musicians as well as writers- each of whom assists when it comes to writing and planning for a music career. Most of my family are not overly interest or believing in my music ambitions, so friends and contacts provide the necessary ear that is needed. When starting out and planning your infant music steps, these friends can assist when helping promote your music; putting you in contact with others- as well as making sure you are not alone. Make sure that this valuable asset is not overlooked; that you ensure you use them (appropriately), as they can give you the additional link(s) needed in order for success.

I will illustrate my utterances with three artists whom have put the effort in; managed to succeed and pioneer in spite of everything. Jen Armstrong is a name I have mentioned before in my blog posts. I bring her up again, as she is every inch the modern-day idol. Her online portfolio is full and insightful. She has a terrific personal website, and ensures that she projects a bubbly and loveable mood. Keen to connect to her fans, she keeps her pages up-to-date and makes sure there is plenty of music available. Recently, she has created a Patreon page; allowing her fans to support her music. Our gorgeous heroine has made sure that she puts her terrific music out as much as possible. I know of a record label that should snap her up- they may have already contacted her- but feel that she is long-overdue (being signed up). That will happen soon, but it is not just the consideration she gives to online representation. In terms of her songs, she has worked hard raising money; recording as many tracks (and covers) as possible; making sure people hear what she has to offer. Her bravery, determination and proliferation impress me hugely, and she tours widely and regularly. Having touched audiences in the U.S.- as well as U.K.- Armstrong is dead-set on making sure she has a huge future audience. The originality and talent are elements that she has also nailed. Her music is witty and varied: ranging from romantic and tender ballads, through to vivid and humorous slice-of-life observations. Her voice is strong and emotive; huge of range and deeply memorable. When it comes to all considerations, Armstrong takes care to ensure that she is her own voice and artist- and does all it takes to get her name and music out there. Shed is giving me the push and inspiration I need to start making moves; the perfect epitome of what a modern-day musicians should be! Issimo and Universal Thee are two names I have featured quite regularly (on my blog). The former, a fellow Yorkshire act (Armstrong is a Yorkshire lass), have enlivened me for many a month. Their music is witty and intelligent; songs filled with nuance and range. Like Armstrong, Abi and Marc are a duo whom work their socks off and make sure that as much as the public listen to their work. Both work hard and long to raise the funds needed to make their songs a reality. I am not sure if the duo are signed yet, but are also long-overdue. Their success has been cemented by their originality and talent. Both are hugely accomplished and mesmeric, making sure that they sound unlike any other- I cannot think of another act that comes close to their sound and flair. Universal Thee are a Scottish outfit whom have just released their debut L.P. Like Armstrong and Issimo, their online pages are filled with information and wonder, and the band are justly reaping the benefits. I know from speaking with the group, how long they have worked to get where they are; how many crappy shifts they have had to pull to fund their ambitions. In terms of bands, they are probably the best example of what I have been saying. Their names are being spread around and recognised, and I hope that they will be making many albums to come. Nina Schofield is another artists whom has the same intuitions and abilities on offer.  Her latest E.P., Colours, was as a result of a lot of hard work and determinations.  Her website and social media representation is impressive and authoritative, and our stunning heroine has been touring and promoting her material tirelessly; as well as this she ensures that her music and offerings are as intoxicating, original and unforgettable as possible.  It is (Colours) one of the best releases I have assessed all year, and she is an artist whom has intoxicated me, completely.  Artists like Armstrong are examples of what happens when you put every ounce of heart and effort into music; how you connect with people and grab attentions by being brave, ambitious and smart.

Before I conclude, I want to mention something I have alluded to much: human elements. I have compared musical success to being in the Wizard of Oz; perhaps alluded to the importance of having a brain; being savvy and intelligent. Courage is something that perhaps most important of all. Disappointment, oppression and failed-expectations are all realities every musician will have to face. You not only need the courage to be able to get through this (and not give in), but also the ability to be able to be bold; take leaps and risks. It may involve moving to a new location; opening up to someone or being brave. I have connected with Cuckoo Records; the splendid artists in offer here and reviewed many of them. I feel that by taking a gamble and getting in contact, I have helped myself as a writer, and (I hope) helped the artists I have reviewed. Being brave and taking leaps is fraught and quite nerve-wracking, yet once done, can lead to some truly awesome realisations and results. Not only can you further your individual music desires, but connect with possible fellow musicians, band members; label bosses and venues. Sometimes, moving to a new life and taking a gamble puts a lot of musicians off, but if you want to succeed and making your way- it needs to be done. This ties in with the necessity to possess, as well as seek out a heart and brain. Being emotionally-open is one thing, but sharing others work can lead to great things. I don’t buy any New Age-y crap like karma, but fellow and artists are always going to be in a position to promote your work and mandates; provided you take time to proffer their work. I take as much time and effort to share great new songs; acts; albums etc.- and I find those respective talent give something back to me. If you are a new talent, you can have all the intent and ready-made firepower there- yet will still need support. By assisting your contemporaries and giving them a helping hand, you find that benevolence becomes infectious (or it should); consequently, receptive arms and hearts are more-than-happy to give an assist and shout-out- when you unveil a new song or idea. You also have to be smart from start-to-finish. Not only with regards to your business plan (and the points I have raised) but throughout your career. When you climb the first rungs, you cannot settle in and go to auto-pilot. Gig opportunities may arise; chances may come, and it is up to you to decide if they are going to be beneficial for your career. Saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to everything cause their own issues; the modern artist has to have a shrewd business mind (as well as a natural intelligence), if they are to ensure that the choice they make, are the correct ones. It may seem like a lot to think about and quite a tall order, but most of these facets are extrapolated and deployed in any ‘normal’ job. Music is pernicious in the sense that if you get cut loose or lose your audience, you cannot apply for a job and move on: the chances or reasserting yourself are slim-none. If you take time to think of other (musicians), makes smart choice as well as become brave and filled with fortitude- it sets you ahead of most and means that patronage and career development are much more likely.

You may ask me: what is the purpose of this blog? Well, the words I have put forward are all verisimilitudinous; they are pertain succinctly to all music: yet there are other considerations as well when it comes to musical success. My inspiration for penning this was to rebel against the reality T.V. show chancer and wasters, and to investigate how much effort and work goes into forging a music career: not as a deterrent, but to show what can come when you put the miles in. I have mentioned a few musical examples; people whom are capable of seductive chef-d’oeuvre; tantalising song and pure charm. Personality and an innate intuition accounts for a lot of their success, but they understand the importance of promotion; social media and thoughtfulness; originality and talent as well as bravery and courage. Many may already be where they want to be in their (music) careers; others getting there- some may be starting out. I hope my words are transferrable to life, love and work in general; yet for we musical folk (those whom do not want to be in an office for our entire lives), there is a lot to think about. Being a crowded and bustling market, many will fall at various hurdles or succumb to entropy- those whom want to jostle for attention need to put the graft in. I just feel that too many do not do enough and skate by somewhat; others whom are deserving of celebration neglect some key fundamental considerations- it is a shame, but that is the way things are. The likes of Universal Thee, Jen Armstrong and Issimo are in various stages of their music life, yet I feel each will be rocking huge festivals; making many an-album- essentially becoming bona fide legends. This whole business of “living the dream” scares the crap out of me; yet I am confident enough that I have enough weaponry and intelligence to be able to at least make some interesting in-roads. I know that there are many new musicians and acts that are considering their opening moments; on the precipice of a new and wonderful career path- they should prepare themselves for some hard work and sweat. It will be good, as it is easier now (as ever) to get your music heard and commit notes to tape. That is it from me; I am preparing a new track now and looking ahead, and will continue to exhaustively support some lovely musicians I feel are worthy of long-term consideration. I wish them the best of luck; and those whom are striving for a particular goal- have no fear, you’ll get there. For anyone else that may be thinking of projecting themselves into the musical ether (and not scared to death by what I have said), I ask you this:

WHAT are you waiting for?!